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How Katie became Katherine or The Most Stupid Stinkyhead Preschool

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Sugar Bowl Mix: How Katie became Katherine or The Most Stupid Stinkyhead Preschool

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How Katie became Katherine or The Most Stupid Stinkyhead Preschool

 My biggest of all mother mistakes was putting my girls at the The Most Stupid Stinkyhead Preschool (MSSP). What a DISASTER. It was a preschool that called itself progressive, that prided itself on advocating for young children. What the two women who ran it failed to tell me when I enrolled Caroline was that it was actually only progressive and would only advocate for your child if your child fit their mold. And to be fair, some children did fit their mold and some children did thrive there. I found out later, after we'd left, that many people in the community called it the "Nazi preschool." Ouch....

The MSSP had developed its own language that every parent was expected to adopt. Parents had to talk about "the plan" and how "that's not our plan." You couldn't say, "we're not doing that" because, according to the MSSP that wasn't something a three-year old could understand.

You were supposed to acknowledge every emotion your child was feeling which sounds sort of admirable in the abstract but is completely unrealistic in practice. When your child was screaming at the top of their lungs and beating their fists and feet into the ground and couldn't hear anything, you were supposed to say in a very calm voice (with a condescending tone): "Oh boy, you are so mad right now. You're kicking your feet and your hands. And boy, you are just so mad." I hear some of you laughing but I'm totally serious. For some parents and some children this worked. It didn't work for me or my children. My children were both the type who seemed to spend a lot of time beating their fists and feet into the ground. What I realized later, of course, was that it was the MSSP atmosphere - the atmosphere where every feeling and emotion was expected to be felt and processed all the time - that my highly sensitive children couldn't handle. What they needed was for someone to pick them up and help them move them on from that mad moment, not walllow in it. They didn't need to be told they were mad because they knew they were mad and that was why they were on the ground tantruming in the first place.

There were some bright moments along the way. Like the spring sing where Caroline belted out "This Pretty Planet" at the top of her lungs off key and had a group of parents in hysterics. Or the three times our old cat Jasper visited the classroom for share time. There were some pearls of wisdom, too, like talking about problems out of the moment. Although what I discovered once the girls were out of preschool was that these helpful tips would have been learned at any decent preschool.

It wasn't the preschool's fault that it wasn't the right fit for my children. No, that was entirely my fault. But other things were the preschool's fault like letting my four year old lie on the dirty office floor crying hysterically for an hour and a half banging her hands on the little chair she was supposed to be sitting on while she waited for Mommy who had been ordered to come pick her up because there was no way that the MSSP could have such an emotionally and socially disturbed child disrupting a classroom at their very progressive school that always advocates for young children.

I had a beautiful moment with Katherine when I picked her up that traumatic day. I sat outside on the front step holding her sobbing, tear stained little body and told her I loved her, that I wasn't mad at her and that no matter what had happened that morning she hadn't done anything wrong. She stopped crying. That was a real moment. We didn't talk about any plan and I didn't talk in that annoyingly condescending tone that went along with all the prescribed parent lingo. And then we got in the car and  and I gave her two pieces of chewing gum.

The next week when I told her she wouldn't be returning to THAT preschool she said: "I hate that school. That's the most stupid stinkyhead school ever."

The first day at the new school she introduced herself as Katherine and told her teacher she wanted to be Katherine from now on. She was no longer the MSSP Katie who threw tantrums and wouldn't clean up toys and stood up at circle time making loud noises. Now she was Katherine who thrived at school. At four years old she created a new identity for herself.

On her Kindergarten report card the teacher's comments read: "Katherine has a positive attitude and is a model of honesty, fairness and integrity. A pleasure to have in class."

The three-year old in me wanted to send a copy of that to the MSSP.  But I didn't. I folded up the report card and put it in Katherine's file. After all, someone has to be a grown up.

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