My son’s nursery school moved locations over the weekend. Since I’m on the board this year, I helped out a couple nights with cleaning and painting and got to see the fun transformation of a drab, empty space into a new, colourful, activity-filled nursery for energetic preschoolers. At the same time, it was a bit sad to watch the old, once-pretty room slowly get emptied of its decorations and return to being sad and lonely.
Spending time in the nursery school setting got me thinking about the teachers and what a tremendous job they do, but first, here’s a deep, dark confession: I’m not a kid person. That may sound strange, but I’m sure some of you parents understand. Having my own kids is different, because they’re mine and I feel a deep connection to them, but I’m not someone who gravitates toward children. I don’t like getting down on the floor to play with blocks or cars, or play ‘house’, or dress up dollies, or make play-doh critters. I’m fine with having kids around, but interacting with kids — sometimes my own, but mostly other people’s — requires a lot of conscious effort on my part. It’s just not instinctive.
As a result, I drop off my son at nursery school and get the heck out of there before the panic starts to rise. If I had to stay and take care of all those kids, I’d go crazy, and that’s precisely why I admire his nursery school teachers so much. The world needs all sorts of people to make it run, and thank god for those who derive pleasure from running nursery schools because it’s one tough job.
I once worked as a part-time nanny for a year and it was the toughest job I’ve ever had. It was a wonderful family — I couldn’t have wished for better in every aspect, and they gave me plenty of freedom in a gorgeous home — but it’s just plain hard taking care of someone else’s kids. I’ve given this a fair bit of thought and my conclusion is that nannying, as with teaching in a nursery school, places an expectation on a person to entertain kids actively. There is constant stimulation required because the parents are paying for the care and it would be unprofessional for a nanny or teacher to be off doing their own thing while the kids play. Also, everyone has their own parenting style and caregivers must adhere to that of the parent, regardless of their own inclinations, which can be quite frustrating.
At home, my kids are little sidekicks who amuse themselves mostly, play independently, and follow me around while I perform all my personal duties. While I cook, they bang on pots and pans. When I clean, they dig through the new stuff that appears on the floor. They dig in the sandbox as I do yard work and climb through the piles of laundry as I fold. We do read lots of books together, but rarely do I concern myself with the theoretical side of their development, or even play with their toys. They just go along with my routine and entertain themselves.
Both styles of child-raising have great benefits, I’m sure, and that’s why I’m happy my kids will have a nice mix. They learn very self-sufficient play when at home with me, and they get the detailed, themed attention to development when they’re at nursery school. While I’m fully content being fairly hands-off mama, boy, do I ever admire those women at the school for having the patience they do. I’d be one big disaster of frazzled nerves after a single morning in that room with sixteen three-year-olds tearing around.