Preschool Eve: A Mother's Lament the top of the slide, looking down

Archer's speech delay has kind of, in a way, made it difficult to see Archer as anything but a baby. A toddler. We don't have conversations yet and even though he is slowly able to express himself, we were recommended Archer start Preschool early as a way to jump-start his speech. (Early Intervention covers the expenses for kids with developmental delays until age three. On Archer's third birthday he will be re-evaluated to see if he still qualifies.)

At first I was against the idea. I was afraid that the other kids wouldn't understand when Archer couldn't talk back to them. I was afraid of a lot of things: What if Archer hates it and no one there understands his sounds and he's unable to communicate... But over time I realized that, yes, it would be a good idea to put him in Preschool early. Because although I want him to go at his own pace I also see the need to put him in a position where he has to speak... In order to make friends and learn and grow up. Be a little boy.

Archer's really tall for his age. He looks older. He looks the same age as the children in his class. Three and four-year-olds, children who are potty-trained, kids who can count to twenty and sing their alphabets no problem. Things Archer cannot do... yet.

It isn't easy to look at your child and then say to yourself, "yes. It's time he grew up"... In fact it's painful, heartbreaking. Not fun at all.

... sun-kissed, pushing off...

I packed Archer's lunch hours ago, filling it with enough food to last him two days. I burst into tears picking the tofu out of his orzo because I didn't feel ready to pick tofu out of his orzo for his school-lunch. And I started to panic realizing that Archer doesn't know how to unzip his lunchbox himself, which is an insane reason to panic because he will have teachers to help him. That's what they're there for, right?

But... But... BUT!

What if he's thirsty and can't ask for his water? What if he needs some help with wiping his face after his meal? What if he doesn't understand what the teacher's are telling him to do? What if he needs a diaper change and the other kids laugh, because he's still in diapers?.... A thousand questions blew through me like a wind until my head was spinning so fasr I had to sit down to avoid falling over.

down the slide, he goes...wheeee!

I suddenly felt awful. Like I was sending my son out in the rain without an umbrella. What if we were wrong to think this would be a good idea?

"I don't want him to go to school tomorrow," Hal said, earlier today.

"I don't either."

"Do we have to send him?"

And then I thought about it. I thought about Archer surrounded by older kids. Kids advanced for their age and kids behind. Kids who pee in the potty and kids who don't. Kids who might pick on him for being different and kids who might see him as a friend. Kids who might teach him. Guide him. Aid him. In his growth. In his change. In his ability to transform, evolve into boy.

"Yeah, I think we do," I said.

"He's just so..."

"Yeah. I know. That's why it will be good for him."

He lands with his feet in the sand, smiling.

Being a parent is about making choices-- following and then fighting our instincts to shelter and hold close and protect, making the decision that is best for Archer in the long-run. Even if and when he fights it. Even if and when we fight ourselves.



Whit | 10:26 PM

Well said. I'm sure Archer will enjoy himself- even as you sit and worry. Kids are funny like that.

Anonymous | 12:01 AM

if its any assurance, my three year old is an accelerated just three kid who goes to a top preschool in seattle.
there is one girl there who doesnt quite have her words yet. all the kids LOVE her. the first thing out of most kids mouths when they walk in the door is asking where she is.
i think theres some mystery to the strong, silent type. even among toddlers.

Anonymous | 12:06 AM

Beautifully written. I hope he has a blast!

L | 1:22 AM

My little man started nursery at 2.5 without speaking a word of English. I was worried. And he did have a few toilet accidents in the beginning because he couldn't ask to go, but 5 months later, he loves the place and his speech has improved remarkably both in English and in Estonian as well.

Anonymous | 2:43 AM

P.S. what is the thinking behind putting him in a class with older kids? It's usually best to place kids who are at the same developmental level together. kids who are functioning around 18 - 24 months of age are very different than those functioning 36 - 48 months and that could be a set-up for a disconnect for Archer. Can he go to a class with kids at his own level? They may be chronologically younger than him but more able to relate to him.

Anonymous | 2:48 AM

It can be hard to send our kids out into the hard light of day -- comparing them to their peers at school is a reality check that doesn't always feel great. But when it comes time for his 3rd birthday re-eval, it will be very useful to know what parts of school Archer can handle on his own, and what parts he might need special ed for.

You're doing the right thing. That doesn't mean you don't have to use the same vigilance you would about anything else Archer-related. Make sure the school is a good one. Check out the NAEYC guidelines for a good preschool and follow your gut.

Good luck to you all.

-- A fellow traveler

Badness Jones | 3:41 AM

Our girlie went to preschool at 27 months old because we needed daycare, and the home daycare situation we'd had was eroding. She was the youngest one there...and she flourished. The other kids were up to age 6, and they were amazing to her. She was so shy, that although she could speak, she refused to do it for months. Children have an amazing way of sensing each other's needs, and I'm sure someone will take Archer under their wing. But man, did I cry after dropping her off that first week! Big hugs, GGC. You, Hal and Archer will be fine!

Anonymous | 5:47 AM

You are so brave.

Anonymous | 5:58 AM

It doesn't matter what I think, but I think you're doing the right thing. Archer will love school. :)

Anonymous | 6:05 AM

Beautiful writing! I hope today goes well!

Don Mills Diva | 6:47 AM

What a touching post - God this parenting stuff is hard, eh? Hope Archer has a great day!

Anonymous | 7:36 AM

I think you're doing the right thing, but it is so hard. As for the being around other aged kids, Montessori encourages that so our dd's school had a wide range of ages and it was so good for our girl. She has an Asperger's dx so although not delayed in speech, she did have other delays and obvious differences from other kids, especially socially. She flourished there and now has lots of friends and loves it. Remember though it could be still hard for him the first week or so as it is a big change. Give it a little time and talk about all your fears with the teacher. They will watch for him more if they know your specific concerns. Hugs for the hard part. - Missy

Anonymous | 7:59 AM

Good for you, Bec. I think it will be surprisingly good for him. CJ's speech delay is one reason that I've insisted on keeping her in pre-school regardless of the cost.

The Mommy | 8:05 AM

I can relate. My son also looks about 2 years older than he is will go to kindergarten in the fall and I worry. I worry everyday if he will be ready. Academically, he is beyond ready. Emotionally, he's an immature almost 5. Still messing up his speech here and there and off in his fantasy world. Nothing the doc has ever been concerned about, but it worries the mommy. What helps me is that I see the difference other children can make. I know sending him will help him be ready. It will help him aspire. Peer pressure is a remarkable tool when they are wee ones. Good luck! Let the tears flow.

Anonymous | 9:01 AM

Big hugs, Rebecca. I have a feeling Archer will love it and blossom before your very eyes.

GoMommy | 9:06 AM

Good for you! It's so much harder for us as parents than it is for them. My son had a speech delay and was tested repeatedly for autism. As heart breaking as it was at the time, and as much as we worried, he LOVED school. (Happy to report he is doing great in Kindergarten!) Good luck with Archer- and your posts are great, I love them!

Fraulein | 9:11 AM

My daughter (now just over 3) is in a pre-school class with kids ranging from 2 and a half to 4 or so, and in my experience they generally all play together pretty well. Being around a bunch of other kids is fantastic for verbal development. And there is a huge range of potty competency and as far as I can tell nobody comments on it. Even the ones that are "trained" sometimes regress. If the school is good, you'll find the teachers quickly adapting to Archer's needs. Best of luck with it -- I'm sure he'll love it!

Dawn | 9:42 AM

My son is only 10 months old and this is already the hardest part about being a good mother. It is our natural instinct to cling to our babies, but it's our responsibility to teach them not to need us. It's heartbreaking!

Laura | 9:45 AM

What a wonderfully written post. Your words are perfect and the photos amazing. KUDOS on a wonderful success at capturing the hardest part of being parents...WAY TO GO!


the mad momma | 10:26 AM

I went through exactly the same thought process.. and my Brat began school at 2.5 too... but yes.. my meltdown point was when I wiped his nose and it suddenly became too much for me. the husband came home to find me sobbing about who would know when to wipe his nose.... i am so glad we all go through it. makes me feel a little less mad...

Trysha | 10:33 AM

Big Hugs to you and Hal!! It's tough. When the boys went to pre-school just about a year ago it was hard. Caedon found a friend who showed him the ropes. He buddied up and I am so grateful for that kid who helped him out.

Just wait until he starts bringing home pictures and paintings and new songs from school!!


Elissa L. | 10:45 AM

your post made me cry. I can't even comprehend sending my 2 1/2 year old to pre-school but I know that the time is fast approaching. Good luck!

dizzibloom | 11:01 AM

I totally feel your pain. Our son stayed with Grandparents while we worked since he was an infant, I had the same fears you are having! Gabe went just before 3, but he had some physical challenges, and was not potty trained. I was scared to death he would be picked on. But once he got there, and loved it, all my fears flew away. Every kid was at a different place in their development. And honestly, I think being around other kids helped him to progress faster, and better. ~ It was totally worth it! I think you'll be surprised how well things go!

Good Luck to you, I hope things go great!

& nice pics btw! I love the one of the two of you on top of the slide.

Unknown | 11:03 AM

exact same things I went through sending my son to daycare at 18 months...and its been the best thing ever. He loves "School" and he is so independent and well adjusted, its wonderful. he was potty trained at 2.5 and gets his own snacks out of the fridge at home now, its cute!

Anonymous | 11:34 AM

when i put my girls in daycare at 18 months i had no choice. daddyjay went back to school and i had to bring home some bacon. it was sooooo hard, but i loved their daycare and they really did benefit from being with other kids besides just the 2 of them. they flourished with the socialization. archer will have so much fun

Liz | 12:04 PM

I just found your blog, so I don't know the history of your son's speech delay but I wanted to give some ecouragment. My son was a late talker. He did not talk at all until after he turned 2. He was not really putting words together until 21/2. We put him in a two day a week preschool program at 2 1/2 and he really took off. He loved it and I saw improvement almost immediately. He was the youngest in his class by 4 months (which makes a big difference at this age) but he did just fine. He is also off-the-charts tall and looks much older than he is. I was always a little embarassed when strangers would try to talk to him, assuming he was much older, and he could not respond.

It's hard letting go, but it may do wonders for him.

Anonymous | 1:07 PM

I teach a preschool class for children with developmental delays. Most of the children are 3-4 years old and have very few words when they start. By the time they leave they are talking up a storm. It makes SUCH a big difference when they are around other children in a classroom setting because as you mentioned....they almost "have to" talk to get their needs met. I'm almost positive that you'll see a difference in his language soon. Keep us updated!

Cherri B | 2:50 PM

What a milestone... for both of you!

I'm sure he had a blast!

Heather | 5:13 PM

I did the exactly the same thing when I packed my daughters lunch for her first day of school. I also had the same what if fears in regard to her not being able to express what she needed without me there to translate but she did just fine and Archer will too. You will be shocked, relieved and perhaps a little saddened that he does not need you as much as you think he does. But I just had to comment because I cannot believe that someone else eased their fears about dropping their child off at school by packing enough for the whole class like I did. Also I LOVE your blog I have been reading for a long time just never commented.

BookMamma | 6:27 PM

It will be OK but I know how VERY hard it must be fr you both! I always thought the worst when I sent my boys but looking back it was the best thing I could do for them at that time. Now they are social butterflies and are compassionate and bright. Hell, those sweet teachers taught my oldest (now 3) stuff I NEVER would have though he was old enough to learn, and I realized it was me holding him back!

Come to think of it, that really sucks too...
The main reason this mamma could never pull off homeschooling!

Looking forward to reading how it went!

Stimey | 8:18 PM

So much empathy...

Some days will be great and some will probably make you both cry, but he WILL figure it out. As will you.

kittenpie | 5:11 PM

The amazing thing about young kids is that they are so accepting. When I briefly taught daycare, we had one boy who was just gaining speech at about 3 years, and the kids worked with him as he was. They see the differences, perhaps, but it's not about exclusion quite yet. Not for a couple of years, anyhow.

Anonymous | 7:53 PM

This post really hit home. My son was born premature, and it seems as if we have been using that as our crutch to not let him grow up. (even though he is more than ready.) There just comes a time when you have to send them out there in the rain without an umbrella...and know that they'll find their own shelter.

the mystic | 8:25 PM

It's been so hard for me to accept that my kids will have to have less-than-perfect experiences and that's how they'll learn to deal with life. Maybe you're not experiencing it to the same ridiculous degree that I am, but sometimes I forget that it's PRESCHOOL for God sake -- because sometimes it feels like I might as well be shipping them off to Iraq and hoping they figure out how to get along...

But I'm kind of crazy -- all that to say that I'm sure Archer will find some love and some acceptance and some friends and all kinds of good things -- even while he learns the more difficult things about independence and groups.