Friday, August 24, 2007

Concern About Day Care from a Young Age

This summer things were so busy that we had no choice but to employ short term temporary day care while we took care of some major projects. Turns out some wonderful high school girls in our community, with whom we are family friends, decided to put on a "camp" during the weeks we needed. The leaders of the camp are trusted individuals who already have a relationship with our son as they have helped us during the occasional pinch. So, we happily set out our pre-school aged kid on his first no-parent-present half day excursion.

As expected, our son had a great time. He loved the counselors, he loved the projects, and he loved the water play. And I loved hearing reports back about his outstanding and independent (!) behavior. Of course, we expected only good reports back. But, it was gratifying to hear about how cooperative he is, how independent he is, and how beautifully he played with *all* of the children. . . . always sharing and trying to help everyone.

You see, for what seems like an eternity already, I've been on the defensive against those who strongly believe that we are hurting our children by not placing them in care outside of the home. We have been told our children will not know how to "socialize," will not learn how to share, and will not learn independence. Meanwhile, this kid will dress himself, make himself a sandwich, clean up small messes, throw laundry into the machine, help set the table, help prepare food by stirring or cutting soft fruits and vegetables (on a good day). But what do I know? Maybe other 3-4 year olds are cooking full dinners, cleaning the kitchen table, and doing the laundry while my kids are just bumbling around?

The other report from camp was not gratifying. Until the last day of camp, the counselors did not share with me the fact that while my son tried to play with everyone and was nice to everyone (their words, not mine), that he was routinely pushed away by many of the children. It certainly stung to hear this, but I was not particularly surprised.

Now I am not the type of parent who believes in sheltering my children from social disappointments and/or rejection. Not everyone is going to want to play with you, like you, or include you and sometimes you just have to "deal with it." Plus, I believe children to be resilient. But, I'm not sure that young children feeling rejected (which I imagine is a feeling even young children experience) is a positive growth experience, especially as they do not verbalize effectively.

A number of years ago, I was in the park listening to a group of mothers talking about the need to make sure they all got their children into a certain pre-school by age 4 because (quote) "by then they kids have their friends" (and they wanted to make sure their kids friends were of a certain social group). The conversation struck me as particularly odd and snotty at the time (still strikes me as such). Of course, where I grew up, one started forming their social circle around 5 or 6, rather than closing their social circle around age 4.

Times have obviously changed and I don't think it is particularly positive. At this point I will just end this post and let others voice their own thoughts. I'm experiencing writer's bloc.


Anonymous said...

I'm STILL forming my social circle! :) I'm not friends with ANYONE I was friends with at 5 and I think that's just fine and dandy. My kids don't need to be in the in crowd at 3, 4, 5. And I'm certain they WON'T be, judging who their parents are! *lol*.

So you know these "camps" have bothered the heck out of me for a while.... and you and I feel very similarly about this type of stuff. Hiring an occasional babysitter who is sitting your kid only is VERY different than hiring someone for EVERY Weekday who is advertising and running what is essentially an unliscenced day care which may or may not be following state regulations regarding training for staff, ratios of adults to children, health codes, etc (even things as silly as fire drills). And your favorite question--- do the staff claim the income on schedule C or what? :) Just wondering...Did you go through any of this self doubt with this type of situation or is this just a me thing? These camps are incredibly popular in our neighborhood and there will be great pressure when our kids are of age for them to participate because our friends kids do.

thanks as always-- love your blog!

mother in israel said...

SL, an experienced teacher might have been able to help the other children accept your son better. I guess that is another problem with this type of setting.

queeniesmom said...

Don't worry about these snotty ideas. I sent my kids to the nursury school that was in walking distance to my house, not the one attached to their yeshiva. All 3 kids transitioned into kindergarten without a problem. we also kept the twins together for kindergarten, another big no-no according to the mavins. i'm happy to report that all 3 have their friends and are quite well adjusted.

If you do "camp" again, you will probably be happier with a cooperative arrangement. Each parent takes a week or two weeks in my case and you have "camp" at your house. The mothers decide on the # of kids, we never had more than 8, and hired teenagers as helpers. This might mitigate a situation like the one that you had.

Could it be that your son is functioning on a higher level than the others and is much more verbal than the others? At 3 & 4 many kids are still parallel playing and don't have long interactions with their peers.

Continu to trust yourself, you know your son best, and ignore everyone's advice. You are doing a terrific job!

Scraps said...

I'm sorry that your son was pushed away by the other kids. I'm sure that wasn't fun. :(

By the way, if you're looking for something to blog about, I found a post at Rabbi Without A Cause that you might appreciate. It's about modernizing the tzedakah process so that there's more transparancy and stuff like that. Here's a link:

Orthonomics said...

Scraps-Thanks for the link. Will check it out.

Mom in Israel-I'm sure an experienced teacher could have helped integrate him better. But, all in all, if I had to do this again (we better not have a project like this in the near future!) I would send him to this camp again. We chose it because he had already bonded with these girls and they trust him.

So to answer TwinsMommy-there was so self doubt about this decision but only because we are so close to the girls running it and they have earned our trust again and again when we have been in a pinch.

The other practical alternative was to send him to the established camp run by two of the mothers in the group who were having the conversation I referred to (!). Plus, I only needed 2 weeks, not 4. Somehow I don't trust ladies who have never bothered to say Good Shabbos to me to integrate my kid (!). Once, on of these mothers in the park grunted Good Shabbos to me with a sour face. That was ground breaking. I prefer to deal with people that treat me nicely.

I also don't think my kids would do well in a big camp where they go places on busses and even go to a real swimming pool. I think these things would make me worry.

As for skirting legalities, we are mostly in agreement. However, I'm more comfortable with camps run by teenage girls than unlicensed day cares. Don't know why. . . maybe the shorter hours? Maybe the fact that a parent is often present?

QueensieMom-Thanks for great advice and chizuk. I would have loved a cooperative agreement. But our project was huge. Maybe next year!

Leah Gayle said...

Dumping pre-school kids into institutions (even small home-based ones) to be raised in herds by badly paid women (who wouldn't be there in the first place if they themselves didn't need money) - and who will never 100% share you family's religious, social, political, and philosophical outlook - is insane.

You can always tell a kid who was raised in daycare - they're the ones who have no idea how to behave properly, who think violence against toys, furniture, and other people is funny, and who have learned that in order to get attention, you have to be loud and obnoxious.

With rare exceptions, this is what day-care does to preschool kids. And the lengths people go to when they try to deny it is amazing. I know many, many people who are in serious denial about their kids. This is a big part of why this generation is "at risk." They've been essentially ignored and institutionalized their whole lives. What did we think would happen?