Baby Talk: Dr. Ya'ir and Mr. Hyde

Will my oldest be emotionally ready to start preschool in the fall?

baby talk 88 amanda (photo credit: )
baby talk 88 amanda
(photo credit: )
Will my oldest be emotionally ready to start preschool in the fall? 'No! Don't cut it! Noooooooooooo!"It's dinner time at the Dan household. The 16-month-old twins are seated in their highchairs, as usual half-throwing, half-eating their dinners. My big boy, three-year-old Ya'ir, is next to me at the adult table and we're about to try something new tonight: since I'm finally going to take off that niggling baby fat, I purchased frozen low-fat veggie schnitzels for the first time. That hypothetically could have worked out well, as there's almost nothing else left in the house - especially not something that can be heated up and served in a matter of minutes. And with three hungry, very vocal children, speed is of the essence. My husband had carefully squeezed out just the right amount of ketchup next to Ya'ir's zapped faux meat, and taking his fork, made a first incision to cut up the soy product as usual. And then Ya'ir flipped out. After a quarter of an hour of unrelenting crying - first at the table and then later in his room until he calmed down - Ya'ir came back to his seat and cheerfully ate the offending schnitzel, down to the last overly salty crumb. A perfect example of his recent split personality: Dr. Ya'ir and Mr. Hyde. My husband and I are now debating which daycare Ya'ir should attend next year - the safe Waldorf-style one he is in now or an untried Municipality preschool conveniently located under our apartment - and it is episodes like the schnitzel affair which make us think twice. Although he is a very bright, exceptionally verbal and inquisitive boy (in my objective opinion, of course), Ya'ir is also prone to temper tantrums and crying jags. In other words, he is a three-year-old. As an inexperienced mother, I figured it best to cover all bases by asking advice of my cadre of experts - a good friend (father of five), my favorite rabbi (a young father of four), and just so I don't do any lasting developmental harm, a child psychiatrist. According to my good friend Erez, the Municipality preschool is the only option. As opposed to the more expensive, more exclusive private daycare we send him to now, "the public preschool is more like real life since it integrates all sorts of children from all different sorts of families." It better prepares the child for first grade and teaches him how to sit and concentrate. Ya'ir will especially benefit, says Erez, since the particular preschool in question is created for three levels, which are all in the same room. This will help him to have a stronger sense of being a "big boy" since he'll be leaving behind the diapers, naps and babies of his current daycare to join children up to age five. And, says Erez, this will spill over in a positive way at home as well. My trusted rabbi agrees and reassures me that Ya'ir's passionate outbursts are perfectly normal. "Especially with more intellectually developed children, you expect that they will behave like much older children, but it is unfair to have these higher expectations," he says (adding that his son who is just slightly older than Ya'ir is also learning to write his name and identify letters). I express my concern that eventually the twins will be with Ya'ir at this one-room schoolhouse of a nursery, which is the same situation the rabbi's children find themselves in. Being with older children, says the rabbi, helped his firstborn learn how to be an older brother. By the time his younger brother entered the preschool, the eldest sibling assumed a leadership role and aided his younger brother to adapt. Things were definitely pointing towards sending Ya'ir to the new big boy preschool. But it was my conversation with the shrink that was the clincher. Dr. Alan Flashman, a pediatrician and child psychiatrist who practices in Beersheba, took time out between his young patients to answer this anxious mother's questions. "The single most useful issue for a three year old is for him to be in a crowd he is happy with," says Flashman. (Though Ya'ir is currently happy with his friends at daycare, most of his peer group will move on to preschool and he will anyway have to adjust to a new crowd, albeit in a familiar environment.) Peers are useful tools for growing, Flashman adds. Starting with a new group and growing and developing alongside them over the next three years could provide many opportunities for social learning. It is my job as a parent, says Flashman, to try to look ahead and see where Ya'ir has the most to gain developmentally. The answer to that question is obvious: Ya'ir is well within his comfort zone at the current daycare and has mastered most of what it has to offer. In a situation such as this new preschool, in which there is such a developmental spread, it is likely that Ya'ir will connect with a variety of kids, says Flashman. He may do more intellectual activities with the older kids and become tied emotionally with those his age or younger. "Though you should work with the nursery school teacher so the older kids don't beat the crap out of him," adds Flashman wryly. Overall, the best gauge for parents, says Flashman, is the computer in your stomach. Does the idea of Ya'ir moving on sit well with me? Gulp... yes. Says Flashman, a parent's guess is the best and most informed. The writer is the mother of three-in-diapers.