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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Torn over two-and-a-half

I hear the voices: "I am just maxed out on what I can do for him/her at home." Father in Chief was even talking about it with some other dads at work. The need to send the kids off to school to get be exposed to new people and new activities and a more stimulating environment than what we have at home.

But now I'm starting to buy into it. Toddler in Chief does spend too much time playing with those matchbox cars. He doesn't have enough stuff to keep his mind growing and learning. And I'm maxed out on what I can do for him. He plays while I ignore him while I'm trying to work. I prop him in front of Blue's Clues while I'm on deadline. I set him up with some books/trains/markers/matchbox cars and then head off to take a shower, fold the laundry, start dinner. What is he really learning while he's trapped here in this house with me?

I don't know how I'm feeling right now other than totally confused. I'm sure part of it is the sense of loss that I feel because many of the kids we know are off in preschool or have moved away. But honestly, I don't know if all the jumbled thoughts in my head are my own or if they are just reflecting back the thoughts of so many of the women that I know.

Maybe it's a bit of guilt because I want to write more. And with him leaving little tornados around the house, perhaps my subconscious is starting to think that preschool is a good idea. If he's not in the house, he's not getting into stuff and leaving messes all over. If he's out at preschool, he's creating messes for someone else to clean up. If he's being cared for by someone else, then I get a break and do whatever I want for a while, guilt-free. Especially because it would be a learning environment.

Whatever it is I'm feeling, I'm very torn over not providing enough stuff for my kid to do or that I'm not attentive enough to help keep his mind occupied with new and exciting learning activities. All this in spite of the fact that I'm a strong believer in the notion that boredom is good for kids. Am I against preschool for two-and-a-half-year olds because I'm trying to defend my choices, as Anonymous accused me of?


  1. My son's not even a year and a half, so i'm sure i don't know anything... but i'm curious to know who is expecting mothers (and fathers, too) to maintain a constantly stimulating environment for their child? it seems like if we have to constantly be active in providing entertainment/stimulation for our child, then the child will grow up always expecting it. and won't that child be surprised when he grows up that the world doesn't revolve around him!!! and the mothers wear themselves out in the process.

    i guess i kinda wish that people would leave parents alone. "oh he should be talking by now" "oh you should be playing german videos so he can have exposure to german at such a young age" "oh he shouldn't stare at a tv; it's bad" "oh he shouldn't cry" "oh you shouldn't swear in front of your child" "oh he has to eat 1200 calories a day" "oh he's below the %5 percentile in weight" "oh he should listen to mozart and then he'll be smart" "oh he should be given every advantage possible"

    it just goes on and on. and it always starts with "OHHHHHH". :-)

    Anyway, MIC, good luck with your dilemma. I have no idea what to suggest to you.

  2. i forgot to say one thing:
    MIC, I know you will make the decision that is right for you and your family. Have no fear. :-)

  3. It's so silly really. I know that I didn't have constant stimulation and a never-ending supply of new toys to play with when I was a kid. I did what my mom did and loved it. Way back then, though, they didn't have computers sucking up our time and keeping us stationary for hours on end. I don't think TIC should have constant entertainment supplied for him. He needs to make his own fun, and he does. I just hear all those voices...

  4. I think you'll feel guilty no matter what. That's the Mother Condition, don't you think?

    I agree that boredom is good for kids. And also, preschool will mean more illnesses, so that's something to consider.

  5. Anonymous12:58 PM

    There's nothing wrong with needing space, right? who says just because you're a mom you can't have some time to call your very own...and your son can have some fun in a world outside of mom? i went back to my old gig when nol was 10 mos old and he spent two days in daycare. it killed me to put him in daycare but i had to do it. many many tears were shed. and the associated mom guilt. but i have to say that for him, AND for me, it was the best thing ever. i needed that space. and i actually learned alot for his teachers at daycare that helped me out when were were home. Now, he's nearly 4 and if you can believe this, he asked me if he could go to preschool everyday, not just three days a week because he loves his friends. i've quit my corporate job to pursue this writing thing while at home with the baby. because of my experiences with nolan, i plan on putting quin in daycare twice a week at around the same time period (10mos-1yr). i know it will kill me again. but i know by then, i'll need the space.

    suzanne, go with your gut. i believe in mother's instinct...and i'm sure there's a little spot in your heart that's telling you what you need to do. you just need to listen..and tell the guilt to F$^# off.:)

  6. Whatever works for you is best. You know your family the most. I agree that some "boredom" is good, but I think of it as allowing the kids the freedom to create.

    (I homeschool mine)

  7. Anonymous6:56 PM

    When does a child become creative, an inventor, a self-motivated person? What cultivates initiative, resourcefulness and invention? Does the early plunge to structured social and educational settings stimulate or stunt these characteristics in a child?

    A toddler under foot at home certainly limits the productivity of the parent in that setting. Since when has productivity become such a high value? How much is productivity valued at the expense of relationship? Is quality time the best investment in one’s child? What does quantity time teach? Is this where in the home context toddler learns about sharing time, importance without unlimited access, and personal responsibility for the use of time?

    No answers. Only questions.
    I like the way you keep searching to know yourself and to understand life as a family. I’ve been reading you for several months and appreciate your honesty.

  8. My take is similar to swamps', but comes from someone who has two older children, who has been through this phase without the extra stimulation of preschool, etc.

    I agree that the "constant stimulation" is not necessary for kids. I believe that playing with matchbox cars (no matter for how long) is stimulating, and is growing and stretching his brain! It may not be flashing and the cars may not be talking back to him -- but it IS stimulation. Through imagination, creativity, organization, self-motivation, etc.

    My daughters were "trapped at home with me" until they were 4 and 5. They had a lot of toys, but played with none of them. They used to play with cardboard boxes. They used to lay blankets down on the floor, and create different "towns" or rooms of a house on each blanket. And their favorite of all toys was the laundry basket.

    I did work at home, as well. I would give them a "quiet time" each day where the older cuddled in with blankets and a movie, and the younger took an actual nap. I would work during that time. And when I needed to work more than that, I hired a college student who took the kids for a walk to the park.

    Today, as 2nd and 4th graders, they STILL don't play with or even want toys or gadgets. They want art paper. They want notepads, in which to write plays and poems and their "spy manual."

    And despite the fact that their brains weren't stretched and grown by preschool, they are both very successful academically, reading far above their grade levels, and being provided with "challenge work" in math and writing (b/c they're advanced beyond the average level that the class is taught to).

    The constant stimulation that some have as of toddler ages makes it so that kids DEMAND constant stimulation in the future. Video games, movies, t.v. shows. Strings of "mom, I'm bored! there's nothing to do!" But if at 2 1/2, TIC is *finding* things to do - he's learning a very valuable lesson. he can MAKE his own fun.

    And if you ever decide to go on a car trip when he's 8, and he's "making his own fun" rather than complaining of boredom!!