The first day of preschool was tough. Not so much for our boy, but for my wife and me.
My immediate thought was, so this is where creativity comes to die. My wife and I spent three hours a day with him for the first week to help with the transitioning process.
During this time, I observed how other kids of varying developmental levels behaved. I saw kids having to wait their turn, listening to instruction, and trying to communicate with other 2.5-year-olds who weren’t good communicators.
As I thought about my negative reactions while soaking in the hot tub, I came to realize what I disliked about preschool was exactly what I disliked about work.
Preschool Was Like Work
At work, despite being a strong performer, I had to wait for a colleague in NYC to first make Managing Director before I could make MD because he had been promoted to head of the desk. Although he was several years older, we had the same years of experience working at the firm, and I was managing a large book of business in San Francisco. Screw that. After already being at the firm for 11 years, I didn’t want to wait five more years to get promoted. So I left.
At work, I had to listen to new hires, who didn’t know my business, tell me how to do my job. I found this tremendously annoying.
At work, I had to attend endless meetings and hear people blabber on and on about what we should do. Ironically, the time spent in meetings significantly cut into the time I needed to do the very things we were being asked to do! Seriously, having meetings to prepare for upcoming meetings is a waste of time. But they must be conducted to justify a manager’s existence.
Unconsciously, I was associating my initial dissatisfaction with preschool with my tremendous unhappiness at work. I felt terrible subjecting my son to a system that I had so enthusiastically escaped from in 2012. In some ways, it felt like I was sending him to prison.
But after a couple weeks of preschool, I started to have a change of heart. Three months later, I believe preschool is worth every penny and more!
Why Preschool Is Worth The Cost
1) Preschool will save a parent’s sanity. It wasn’t until we finally dropped off our boy, wiped away our tears, and left did we start to appreciate preschool. Initially, during the first month of preschool, we finally both got three hours of free time. We used this time to catch up on errands, tidy up the house, relax in the hot tub together, go on brunches, and to write.
Both my wife and I had been going nonstop for 30 months in a row raising our boy. Our days would often go from 5 am – 11 pm because he wasn’t a good sleeper and has the endless energy of the sun. I was also on a mission to fulfill my 10-year goal of posting 3X a week, while my wife was on a mission to make sure he had an enriching a home environment as possible.
Preschool gave us the vacation from parenthood we so desperately needed. When he started going for 6 – 8 hours a day, I felt like the heavens had parted. My happiness went from a 6 out of 10, back up to an 8 out of 10 on average.
2) Your child will learn to be more independent. It must be scary for a child to go from always being around his parents to suddenly be in a room full of strangers. But over time, your child will adapt, learn the names of everyone, and figure out how to stand his or her ground. Our children also need to learn how to interact well with others.
As the son of foreign service parents I clearly remember the scariness of being the new kid in school every 2-to-4 years. But I believe the frequent moves forced me to develop social skills and greater self-confidence. Today, I love going to all types of social gatherings and have no fear of talking to anybody.
3) Your child may develop greater emotional intelligence. The people with the best social skills tend to go farther in life because more people end up liking and supporting them. Being in a social environment for longer may improve a child’s social skills and emotional intelligence. At least your child will learn how to play nice with others.
4) Your child will experience and learn conflict resolution. Amongst toddlers, inevitably bad things will happen. The first time I was told a child had bitten our son, I was shocked and angry. But these unfortunate incidences are used as teachable moments by the teachers to explain to the children what they should and should not do. These moments are used to teach kids how to apologize and offer forgiveness.
Throughout high school, I got into plenty of fights and arguments. It is due to these experiences that I’m able to better control my emotions during conflict resolution as an adult. For example, being calm after my kidnapping in Beijing helped me get out of a scary situation. Further, I’m not afraid to battle with anybody when insulted or threatened.
5) Your child will learn new habits. One of the biggest reasons why my wife and I were so exhausted as stay at home parents was because our boy didn’t take regular naps after he turned 18 months old. Therefore, one fear we had was that our son would be disruptive during the preschool’s nap time between 12:30pm – 3pm. But surprisingly, our boy napped the very first day and has continued napping every day for months!
We postulate the reason why he naps at school and not so much at home is due to peer pressure and conformity. At home, he has more freedom to do as he wishes. But at school, he has to listen to his teachers and follow the habits of his peers.
Peer pressure and conformity aren’t generally looked upon in a positive light. But we all need to demonstrate some sort of conformity if we are going to make our way through society. Eventually, we can all be irreverent, but not before achieving financial independence.
6) You’ll learn how soft or hard you really are as parents. For first time parents, preschool can be particularly helpful to know where you stand as disciplinarians. You can learn from the good and bad habits of other parents by observing how their children act in a school setting. From your observations, you can better calibrate what you should be doing more or less of.
My wife and I are probably on the softer side because of our personalities and also because we don’t have a strict schedule to follow. For example, since we don’t have to get to work by 8 am, there was no urgency to wake our boy at a set time, prepare breakfast, brush his teeth, and so forth. The absence of routine probably hurt all of our ability to sleep more soundly.
You may also learn what you’ve been doing right as parents. They say that speaking to your child as much as possible is good for learning. Therefore, we both talked to him all day long in English, Mandarin, Spanish and Japanese. But we really didn’t know how useful our efforts were until we went to school after our teachers said they’d be teaching the class how to count to 10.
My wife and I looked at each other funny because months early we had already taught our boy how to count to 1,000. We aren’t tiger parents. We just continued on with the counting once he understood the progression. This is one of the benefits of having 1:1 instruction and not having to wait for other children.
7) Your kid won’t get “dumbed down.” One of my concerns was whether my son would regress or get bored if he was being taught something he already knew. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be how the young brain works. Instead of regressing, it continues to absorb new information.
For example, even if your daughter already knew how to count to 10, she could learn how to enunciate the words better. She could also learn how to combine the numbers to form new numbers.
Another concern was how our son would interact with one of the less verbal kids at school who also happens to bite others. Would that kid, who benefits greatly from preschool, drag other kids down with him? So far, it doesn’t seem to be the case.
If parents continue providing supplemental education at home, I think our kids will continue to grow just fine.
8) You’ll develop a support network of other parents. Spending the vast majority of your time only with your partner and child can get mundane after a while. Just think back to how much fun you had going out at night with your friends before you had children.
By sending your child to preschool, you join a community of people with strong common interests. There seems to always be a fundraiser or a birthday party to go to, which is a great way to vary your weekend routines. It’s nice to be able to get tips and advice from other parents who have gone or are going through your same issues as well.
9) Your child will participate in new activities. You can do plenty of fun things with your child at home, but there are certain activities like painting, claymation, and science water experiments that are much easier to do in school. Your child will also be exposed to new books and toys to keep him or her more stimulated throughout the day.
Our preschool has a special activity after nap time every day such as music class, Spanish class, and dance class. It’s really nice to give your child consistent exposure to as many new things as possible. You never know what might stick!
10) A lifesaver if you are pregnant or have a baby. Being pregnant or caring for a baby is already difficult. Concurrently caring for a baby and a toddler who won’t stop running around and getting in trouble takes Herculean strength.
By sending your toddler to preschool, not only do you feel great that a highly qualified person is teaching and caring for him, but you feel great that you get to spend more time taking care of your body or your baby.
It is also natural for the older sibling to get jealous of the baby sometimes. Therefore, this separation may help lessen the jealousy and increase the harmony at home. When in doubt, child specialists say to pay more attention to your toddler than to your baby, since your toddler better understands what’s going on.
The Downsides Of Preschool
Nothing is ever perfect. Here are the downsides of preschool you’ll likely experience.
1) More sickness. Despite a “don’t come to school if your child is sick” policy, I’m sure some kids still do because parents have to work. Also, nobody knows exactly when a sickness stops being contagious.
Although our boy has yet to contract a serious illness, he has come down with a fever, cough, and a persistent runny nose since starting preschool. He then passes his sickness onto us.
So far, my wife and I haven’t gotten sick at the same time. But this day will likely come.
2) More chance of danger. At home, our boy is as safe as can be. We’ve padded all corners and edges, hold his hand on walks, and always have our eyes on him. At preschool, even with a small 6:1 teacher:student ratio, that’s still not as good as having a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio.
Your little one will probably get hurt more often in preschool. Your child will probably experience physical altercations like hitting and bitting as well.
Our biggest fear is that our son will get hit by a car because every day they walk to Golden Gate Park three blocks away. Know what type of safety precautions are in place for your children and make suggestions if warranted.
3) Activities at home may change. One of my favorite activities I used to do with my son before he went to preschool was go for a 1-1.5 hour walk around the neighborhood. We’d go for a walk every day and he’d be so excited to describe all the different garage doors he’d see.
Now, he hardly ever wants to go on a walk with daddy. And when we do, it’s for maybe 15 minutes and then back home we go because he misses mommy.
4) Cost. Most cities in America don’t have universal preschool. Therefore, expect to pay between $800 – $2,500 for preschool a month, depending on location and amount of care.
We pay $1,950 a month for full-time care, plus another $50 – $100 a month for fundraisers. We could go down to part-time care three days a week for $1,650 a month, but we prefer the flexibility.
Preschool Is Worth It
For most parents, preschool is a necessity to help support their careers. If your child can learn while also giving you the ability to earn, that’s a great combination.
For us, preschool has allowed us to gain back our freedom. During the weekdays, we’ve gone back to doing more of things we love to do, like write, play tennis, go out to eat, go to the beach, nap and so forth.
I’m noticeably happier now that I have 6-8 hours of free time a day again. Make no mistake. Children are a joy, but they also bring a tremendous amount of suffering, sadness, fear and frustration too. My increased happiness alone is worth the cost of preschool.
As long as your children enjoy preschool, preschool is one of the best things ever for children and parents. Make sure you consistently ask your kids how their day was and whether they are having fun. If they’re having a great time, then keep on having them go. If they’re not, then find them a new school or keep them at home.
Every child adapts to school differently. It’s up to us as parents to find the best environment for our children to learn.
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Parents, anybody go from a negative initial impression to a highly positive impression of preschool? What are some other pros and cons of preschool I may have missed?