After we moved back to Maryland last April (after spending 2.5 years in Morgantown, WV) I started looking for a new school for my daughter. Not because little B really needs education so much right now, she just turned 4 in December and she is extremely bright. But because I wanted to create a new circle of friends for her, and because she is an insanely social child who does not want to be home with mama all day every day. She loves being around other people, both children and adults.
I couldn’t find anything comparable to our awesome preschool we’d had in Morgantown, which was a play-based, gentle preschool co-op. The majority of preschools that I could find were religious; there are Christian preschools in this area by the dozen! The rest were daycares, none of which offered a part-time option. I’m not really against daycares or anything, I just did not want her to be in a 7am to 6pm program and have to pay for all that childcare. The rest, were Montessori.
So I started looking at Montessori schools. I really did not know anything about Montessori at all, except for images in my head of the pretty and simple materials. (They don’t refer to their materials as toys, and the children do *work* with them.) I went and visited a few. One, when I asked if the children have fun, replied sternly: “The children learn FOCUS.” We passed that one.
The other replied, “The kids here have a blast!” The building was clean, bright, spacious but not too big. The rooms were well-organized. The staff seemed friendly. I decided to try that school.
Right from the start, lil’ B LOVED her school. She would run from the car and into the door and race into class with a smile. She was so excited to be there. She wanted to be friends with everyone.
Until. One day, in October, I was there for their Halloween parade. The children were lining up to go outside and I was about four feet away when Bella walked up to a few little girls and asked them if she could play with them outside. “I already TOLD YOU,” replied one. “STOP asking to play with me. I DON’T want to play with you.” “Yeah,” replied the other. “You can’t EVER play with us.” I was standing right there! My daughters face just crumpled. Her lip trembled and she replied, at the tender age of 3, “You guys aren’t being very nice.” The bigger of the two replied, “Well we have told you and TOLD you.”
This was the first hint that something was not right with the school. When I talked to the teacher about it, she told me that it’s important to empower B by letting her navigate these situations herself. She was THREE. And really, if a teacher gives her tacit approval (by not saying anything) to that type of behavior, the other kids learn that it is ok to behave that way. Kids don’t just pop out of our wombs knowing how to be kind. We actually have to, you know, *teach* them that.
I was on the verge of pulling B out of school at that point, when finally the teacher had a conference with my husband and I and apologized for not handling the situation well. Ok. At this point, B was maintaining that she loved school anyways, so we continued.
We started staying for lunch. That wasn’t part of our program, but the school administrator and B’s teacher thought it might help her form friendships to stay for what is a very social part of the day. At some point, B started having accidents during lunch. Lots and lots of pee accidents. The really crazy part, to me, was that she was not telling anyone or asking for help. She was sitting in urine and letting it dry on her clothes until I arrived. She had extra clothes there. But apparently her teachers would refuse to help her change, and she was scared they’d be angry if she got up to use the bathroom.
I tried a bunch of different things to handle this. I talked to her about how she can always get up and go potty by herself. She has been diaper free during the day since before she was two. (I am not supermom y’all, I hit the jackpot on that… she basically just taught herself to do it. But then she refused to wear diapers and if we were far from a potty it was a frantic race to get there whenever she had to go!) I started making sure she went potty before I left school. I talked to her teachers and asked them to make sure she was using the potty, to make sure they *told* her and did not ask her to go.
She still had a ton of accidents.
After months of watching the teachers be stern and, well, mean to other children, my daughter just had it in her head that she could not get up anytime and go potty. She had a lot of anxiety about it and she was telling me, at home, that her teachers were mean. So I wrote her teacher a note, a last-ditch effort. I asked if she could spare five minutes of her time to sit down with us and have a little talk about potty rules, so B would *know* that it is ok to go whenever she needs to.
Her teacher approached me in class the next day and told me sternly, rudely, that I need to take B to a pediatrician. I replied that her problem is not physical, it is anxiety, and the pediatrician cannot fix that. The teacher replied… “Take her to the pediatrician!” And stomped off.
So I pulled her out of school.
And she hasn’t had another accident since. Big mystery, right? She has gone to movies, gymnastics class, story times, playdates, and never been so distracted that she didn’t listen to her body and get up to go pee. Huh!
I spoke with the school admin and talked about moving her to another room. I still had some misgivings about the school overall, but mostly felt like the big issue was the teacher, and a new teacher would be better. Today we were supposed to start the new class. But on the way out the door this morning, B broke down crying and saying “I just can’t do this Mommy,” and “What if she is mean?” (referring to her new teacher). Fuck, fuck, fucking fuckers. These fucking asshole teachers took my joyful and enthusiastic kid and turned her into a child who is scared to go to school. So thanks a whole fucking lot for that, assholes. Fuck. I am so fucking furious. School should not be this hard for a kid who just turned four!
Anyways, that’s that! So much stress, worry, and trying so hard to make something work, over with. I’m glad. We are going to do a TON of fun stuff. But I am also quite nervous because basically B just likes to hang out and climb on my head all day when we are home together. Thank Maude at least that spring appears to be on the horizon!!!!