FAMILY & PARENTING

My Daughter Is Missing Preschool, But Here’s Why I’m Not Concerned

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

Last year, I enrolled my daughter into a program for 2-year-olds. It met only once a week for a handful of hours, but for us, it was the perfect way for her to be social.

Prior to, my daughter was used to hanging out with just me. And while that’s not the worst thing in the world (I mean, I guess I could be more fun at times), it’s always important for kids to meet other kids. Especially since my husband and I have decided to join the “one and done” club. She won’t have any siblings to hang out with.

Like most moms, I was terrified over dropping her off that first time. I had tears as I pulled out of the lot, wondering whether or not she’d be OK without me.

The answer was, yes. Turns out, my daughter is a social butterfly and was happy I was gone for a few hours. As for me? I missed her, but I had forgotten what total freedom felt like. For the first time since she was born, I actually had the house to myself.

She quickly made friends in the program, and we enrolled her for the next year. Things seemed to be on track. Then 2020 happened. Her instructor chose to cancel the program, which was the safest option. However, it’s been sad to have built connections just to see them fall apart.

There’s also the feeling that she may be falling behind. Personally, my oldest memories come from preschool. And one of the benefits of preschool is having your child get adjusted to the routine of leaving home. It’s meant to be a place for kids to play and explore. While the situation is tough to handle, I’m choosing to view it positively. Here’s why I think the kids of today — notably, my own — will be OK.

My daughter has proven to me that she can adapt to any situation.

preschool

I was a really shy kid. Being the youngest in the family, I usually walked into gatherings clinging to my mom’s legs. I only felt secure when in her presence. My daughter is just the opposite.

Despite hanging out with me at home for two straight years, she’s still the life of the party. She isn’t afraid to socialize or meet new people. From a safe distance, she says hi to our neighbors and asks other kids about their names and ages.  She has a healthy sense of confidence.

While preschool is an incredible experience, I think I’d be a bit more upset if I thought she wasn’t properly socialized. But the truth is that I know I’m projecting my own fears when I worry about it. I’m the one who would have benefited from more social activities. My daughter is just fine.

There are still ways for my daughter to learn online.

preschool

Do I want my daughter glued to her iPad for additional time per day? Not really. But I’m going to be honest and say that I’ve seen the educational value of iPads and screens. While it’s not great to substitute a television for actual interaction and playtime with your child, it’s what has made her confident with her numbers and ABCs. She’s also discovered a ton of songs she likes thanks to YouTube Kids.

These days, there are so many programs online that will help her educationally. Even though it’s not the same as preschool, it’s my way of knowing that there has been some growth during this time.

Other kids will be in the same position as my child.

Other kids will be in the same position as my child.

The sadness she’s feeling over not attending is something the rest of her class is feeling as well. She’s not the only one left out of preschool. Plenty of kids across the globe are also opting to stay home or try to work on lessons virtually.

A lot of parents are worried that their children won’t get the socialization they need. It’s sad to keep your child locked up at home, but my daughter’s experience will be similar to her friends. It’s not like I’m personally keeping her out. Right now, everyone is just following the decisions made by the governor.

Plus, not all children opt in for preschool. Many do, but some children don’t experience a classroom setting until kindergarten. Plus, she’s still technically under the age limit. Actual preschool often starts at 4. Right now, she’s only 3.

My daughter already understands the concept of school.

My daughter already understands the concept of school.

Preschool is a good way to introduce kids to the concept of school. But for kids who have already been through day care programs, they already understand how to successfully be apart from their parents, taking commands from a teacher instead. My daughter was in day care for a spell after I had an injury in 2019 that made me temporarily unavailable to lift her.

There’s a lot that preschool offers, and I’m genuinely upset that we’ll be missing out. But based on what I know of my daughter, I don’t think this will cause her to eventually reject the idea of school.

Things could be much worse.

Things could be much worse.

My heart goes out to all the moms out there who are trying to juggle both work and the schooling of their children. Some moms simply couldn’t do both (which is understandable) and actually left their jobs based on this crisis. Luckily, I’m able to make things work.

I have a hard time complaining about my daughter missing preschool when there are kids out there who’ve had to find ways to finish first and second grades. I worry about the kids who really do need the help and the in-person instructions. I’m entitled to be a little grumpy about the way the year has gone, but I understand that I’m also very lucky.

I also have a new admiration for all of the local moms in my town with school-age kids. Through Facebook groups online, I’ve watched them hustle and gather to form pods and work out plans they feel comfortable with. At a time when our world has been flipped upside down, I have faith that everyone’s doing the best they can right now.

I'm trying not to lose sleep over things I can't control.

preschool

I think all of us have had our control-freak moments. And I know that moms have them pretty badly — especially moms with a packed house. I feel like moms are often forced to make the schedule that fits the needs of everyone in the family. Moms often multitask and serve as the glue of the family. That’s why news like “Preschool is canceled” can really throw a wrench into things.

However, this wasn’t a decision I made. But I trust the people who made the choice. In this environment, we all need to trust our guts. And for preschool, most people’s guts said “no, thanks.”

If I could sum up this period in my life in one word, it’s “understanding.” I understand that this year has gone terribly, and I also understand that countless moms and professionals are making choices on the fly. Why get angry over things I can’t change? It is what it is. This is a great year to focus on adaptation.

This unprecedented event has given me more family time.

This unprecedented event has given me more family time.

My daughter and I get along beautifully. Of course, I need some breaks from her every once in a while, but in general, she and I really know how to work together. It’s not a big deal having her home for seven days a week.

This situation has also really strengthened her relationship with her father, who’s also been working from home. Without a commute, the two of them have more time to spend together. (And I must admit, it’s kind of nice to have an adult I like in the house. It’s been fun chatting in the midst of our workdays.)

The two of them often go out on nature walks, meaning that there’s a lot of learning happening every day. At the age of 3, she’s been able to pick out the sounds of a cicada. While taking hikes in the wooded areas close by, she’s also learned a lot about rocks, trees, and insects. And even better, she loves it.

While I miss having a place to drop her off to socialize with kids her own age, I realize that learning can happen everywhere. We’re all in this together. One day, when our kids are in middle school, I can see myself grabbing coffee with some other local moms and reflecting on the weirdness that was 2020. Because regardless of what their situation was, it definitely didn’t go the way they initially planned.