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Cultural Clash? Did I Pick the Right Preschool After All?

4 years ago

1260 words

Photo: Minor’s work today. Two puzzles, all by himself. I wasn’t even in the room! He was just like, “I want to do the small puzzles” and then, boom. Done. No help from his brother (he was at school) and not even a question for me. I don’t worry about the brain power that my boys have… but all of the social stuff? I worry all the time…


I am having some second about the boys’ preschool and I am starting to feel a little anxious about kindergarten. We’re committed for next year, and we chose this school, and we aren’t new to it, but still… I am feeling a little bit anxious. Some of it is ridiculous but… some of it? I dunno…

I was sitting in the waiting area with two other moms, Minor and his classmates. This is called the “layover” time when the younger siblings in the toddler class hang out for a half-hour while the big siblings in the preschool classes wrap up their day. We were reading books to the children and talking in between. Small stuff, you know?

And then one of Minor’s classmates, a little boy, started going into the cubbies and ripping down some of the personal pictures inside of them. His mother quickly grabbed him and told him to stop. A minute later, he was back at it, successfully ripping a picture. She sat him down and told him not to do it again. She settled back into a book that she was reading with another child. Her son then came up to her and, with the full force of his muster, began to hit his mother in the arm. Not once. Not twice. But five times. You could hear the impact. He was doing it in anger and with intent. And each time she said, “stop that. Do you need to have some time to yourself?”

It was after the 6th strike that she put down the child she was reading to, picked up her child and took him to a quiet area, where she talked to him and then brought him back to the group.

Mind you, Minor watched the whole thing.

And when I knelt down in front of him to put on his coat and zip it up, he chose to test the waters. He kicked me. Not in anger, but with intent.

“Did you just kick me?” I asked with an edge of anger.

“Yes,” he answered sheepishly.

“Have you lost your mind?”

“Yes,” he answered again.

Don’t even think about it, little boy.

But that wasn’t the end of the day for me. Because Major brought some stuff home, too.

That evening, I put a plate of beautiful fish po’ boys on the table for dinner. Gorgeous things. Seriously. And I called the boys for dinner. “I made special fish sandwiches for dinner! Don’t they look yummy?”

Major took three steps forward, looked at the plate, scowled, crossed his arms, and then went storming back. “I don’t want that! I don’t want that for dinner! That looks yucky!”

Uh huh. Ok. “Well, you don’t know that it’s yucky because you haven’t tried it yet, baby. Please come to the table and try it. That’s all–”

NO! I said that I won’t. It’s yucky and I won’t eat it! I WON’T EAT IT!

I raised an eyebrow. “Little boy, who are you talking to?”


Yeah, I lost it. I didn’t spank him (which is what my mother would have done), but I gave him one hell of a talking to. I couldn’t believe it.

Now, some of that is natural 4 year-old behavior, but I’ve seen that behavior at school, too: child to parent and student to teacher. This is a school where kids call teachers by their first names (I make my sons put a “miss” in front of it and I don’t care), and kids, essentially, do whatever they want. Teachers are sugar sweet, even in behavioral situations. They try to outmaneuver and negotiate, having children come to their own conclusions about appropriate behavior. Only in extreme situations are children “disciplined.” There are stations for different activities, but everything is, essentially, optional. If Major wants to play with cars and trucks all day, he can totally do that (and he sometimes does!) instead of doing art or reading books with a teacher or playing with friends.

As an educator, I am philosophically ok with that. This is an age if exploration. That’s how children learn. They should spend these early years filling their brains with everything.

But as a mother, I’m starting to find it counter what my expectations. Why can’t we explore academically and learn some social boundaries?

Because, Major has to go to “real” school soon, where there are real stakes and real expectations. And I’m really worried about that transition for him. I know that we have one more full school year of preschool before kindergarten, and that represents a lot of growing, but… will it be enough? There is a structure and culture to real school, and this school seems to be counter to that…

And then there will be the academic expectations. I learned over the weekend that the expectations in public school around here are that kids are reading by the end of kindergarten. That struck me as really early when I was speaking to some parents at church on Sunday. A few conversations with my mother and others informed me that this isn’t unusual (indeed, my sister and I, as well as my husband were all reading by that time). But will Major and Minor be doing that? I’m not seeing a lot of work on this at the expensive preschool I’m sending them to!

Ok… I have to calm down.

I realize that I’m a woman with two brain here. Three, really. There is the brain of the worried mother, the brain of the former educator, and the brain of the former education student who was filled with grand philosophical ideas of what education “could” and “should” be rather than what it is. And what my two boys need to get out of it. I’m making a lot of investments, taking a lot of risks… and I won’t see the returns for years.

And I realize that I am asking a lot of the boys: I am asking them to adhere to a certain culture at school that may actually clash with the culture at home. But then again, that’s good training because, frankly, all little children of color have to do that. Code-switching is a thing. Even if the “code” is technically the same in both of the places where they traverse. And maybe these are just the early days of that social learning. There are things that I can/cannot do out there and there are things that I can/cannot/must do in here. I hope, though, that it doesn’t make their transition to the big-leagues a more difficult task.

Am I crazy, dear reader? Motherhood presents so many things to worry about that I can’t discern which way is up or down!

My writer’s block is gone! I am here, I am writing, and The Modern Idiot gave me a good push and some ideas on what I can do to get my writing back on track. 🙂 Thanks, girl! (But I’m still never going to share this novel with anyone ever for any reason! ;-P )

Let’s have a good week, folks!

11 Replies to “Cultural Clash? Did I Pick the Right Preschool After All?”

    1. It is so exhausting to swim again the current all the time. I know that I chose this, but still. I feel like I am always a little surprised about what I’m looking at and how things are around here. That’s my fault. But it’s like, do I get hip with how they roll around here or do I just keep swimming my own way and be the “weird mom” who is more strict than everyone else?

      1. They will survive from a strict not that strict mom with 2 college grads and a college sophomore they will be better for it. Speaking of differences my youngest always played football. At his HS games girls would sit on guys laps be hugged up in FRONT of their parents. I WISH one of my kids would! A girl my son was dating mother was just too fast and loose with rules. The girl didn’t liked to come here because they had to stay in common areas. I asked her parents to only let my son over when she’s home and open doors. She said she trusted her daughter abd didn’t worry about stuff like that. Am i crazy??? Wait till you have THOSE big children problems lol

        1. All. Boy. Boarding. School. That’s my plan for this. No girls around ever! (to be clear, Major has a little “girlfriend” already who tells him that she loves him. I want to just die.)

          There is NO WAY! I can’t even believe that!!! You can’t trust teenagers for nothin’! Their singular objective in life is to lie! Oh no!!! I’d be like “You’re only seeing each other in our front yard between the hours of 2 and 4 pm. Then she’s gotta go home!”

          So, you uh…. never let your son leave the house again, right?

          1. Lmao I said I was strict but not that strict so I did let him leave the house and Im sure he snuck to her house though he was forbidden. When they get seventeen inly so much you can do But hopefully things I said and did STUCK. So far so good????

  1. So glad it helped! Getting stuck is no easy fix. Go get ’em Tiger; you’re gonna be great 🙂

    LOVED this:
    “Have you lost your mind?”
    “Yes,” he answered again.
    I have said it and heard it too many times to count!

    Preschool sounds progressively touch-feely, but a bit like Rousseau fantasy-camp? Even the most adventurous of explorations have had rules, disciplines, and/or guidelines if progress was to be made. If nothing else, to ensure the safety and success of the entire team.

    If you want learning, there must be direction lest it remain mired in the constant of observation; if you want fission then lock the doors and go have coffee.

    1. Right? It is so strange. The thinking about how we’re parenting this next generation is just the strangest. It’s just like, “no rules! learning is fun! learning is special! learning is freeeeee!” but then the get to a certain age and it will be “you will sit here and I will test you until your brain is fried!” and the transition from where I am to where I’m going is going to be swift and jarring. I don’t think that the boys should be sitting and preparing for a test right now. Hell, I don’t want them to take the tests when the time comes! But I’m not sure that I’m liking all this super-progressive freeeeeeness either.

      And I was talking to another mom today who is also an educator in the city, and she was like, “I understand why you feel this way…” but then she couldn’t give me any comforting alternative. It just seems to be like, “welp, you’re black and you moved to the suburbs. This is how we roll around here. You gonna get on board or do you wanna be weird?”

      And really, for my bitching an moaning, I probably am going to encounter this no matter what school I choose? Right?

      1. yup. you will search long and hard for the perfect school but may never find it. I think concessions are inevitable; the trick is keeping them at a low number.

        as far as testing, agreed. testing is done terribly anyway. but if you look at it from another pov: some if us never did pre school let alone pre pre school, and we’re fine. we were prepared enough to make it. so is their method critical at this time if you’re doing it right. you can’t teach them everything. some things are learned by consequence and freedom to act.

        but unchecked violence is unacceptable. it’s a safety issue.

  2. Picking the right School is so difficult… No matter how much Research you do beforehand, you’ll only know whether the School is good/the right School for you when the Kids attend it.

    There’s nothing wrong with changing pre-schools. I know a couple of mothers at our School who switched to our School from another School who are saying things like “I whish I had done this sooner.”

    So, maybe you should take a look around/talk to other moms. When you had just moved there, you had no word-of-mouth to go by. There’s nothing wrong with checking out other Options. It’s not like you HAVE to take them.

    1. Yeah… the problem is that we’re already committed to next school year. Non-refundable $1400 check went to the school back in January. 🙁 So, I can look, but I probably can’t touch unless I win the lottery between now and then. And then Major will be off to kindergarten. I could send Minor to a hol different preschool after that, but then he’d be switching schools twice: first for his last year of preschool and then again when he starts kindergarten. It seems like a lot. This was probably my best window. The $1400 I would lose by switching would probably be what I need to get into another school. *sigh* Nothing is ever easy. But it’s exhausting to think that I’d have to fight against this current for 2 more years…

  3. If it eases your mind at all, try to remember that not all kids go to preschool at all. They’ll probably be ahead of (at least) some of the kids in the class, and by the time kindergarten is done all of the kids will be caught up. The boys are still young enough that play truly is their only job:)

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