Preschool Anger

Sophie’s preschool director sent me an email asking if Sophie were going to withdraw from the school. “It has come to my attention from the staff that you still seem dissatisfied with the school,” she wrote, and reminded me that they have a 30-day cancellation policy, but offered to waive it for us. I don’t know if this was because we had a minor complaint every single day last week, or because I keep bringing in Sophie later & later each morning, reluctant to leave her in that anarchic space.

I wrote back with what I thought was a polite note: “I am glad that you noticed,” I wrote, and I told her that, yes we’ll be leaving the school in 6 weeks.

It isn’t just that the curriculum is a poor fit for us. My largest concern is that Sophie comes home in deep discomfort. On Monday this week, she got a fairly large gash on her elbow (from slipping off the swing) and no teacher noticed. It had stopped bleeding by the time I picked her up, but no one had cleaned it or hugged her… On Tuesday, Ben picked her up smelling of urine. On Wednesday, today, she was also smelling of urine. We are working with her to encourage her to ask for help when she needs it, and we have mentioned each of these small issues to Miss N as soon as they occur, but they’re not getting better. Sophie is such a well-behaved child that she is easy to overlook. Maybe other 3-year-olds have enough initiative to constantly ask for the nurturing care they need, but Sophie doesn’t yet have that sort of initiative, and she’s not being nurtured at this school.

Ben tells me that this email could be read in an angry, sarcastic tone instead of the sad, informative tone I meant it in. I had thought that a school might want to be told that a quiet child was bleeding and no one noticed. I had thought that it was clear that I accept partial responsibility: I know Sophie should have asked for help. I know that most other 3-year-olds, when they bleed, will cry. But Sophie won’t always cry and so she gets overlooked.

Apparently my email was misread, because here is the reply I received, from the preschool head whom I have never met:

I am reluctant to respond to your last email but find your demeanor so hurtful I feel I have no choice. We have been in Leucadia 35 years and have always taken great care of the children who attend our school. We have a 1-7 student teacher ratio and have a great nurturing dedicated staff. Not every school is a fit for every family. Part of going to preschool is learning to communicate your needs and become an independent person-most parents first concern isn’t that they come home clean. Certainly wet pants and scraped elbows need to be attended to but if children don’t communicate it makes it tough for the staff. Making us aware a 3 1/2 year old is soiling their clothes is communication between parents and school that benefit all. I don’t understand the reasoning on your part that if you feel she is receiving such poor care that you would wait 2 months to find a new situation for her. Needless to say we are very hurt and offended.

So, you see, my daughter comes home with a bloody, dirt-encrusted wound and somehow it is my behavior that is hurtful & offensive? Or the problem is that my priorities are misplaced, because “most parents’ first priority” is not to worry when children come home with large uncleaned wounds? Perhaps my behavior is hurtful not because my child was bleeding, but because I somehow didn’t communicate this in a way that would “benefit all,” even though I did tell Sophie’s teacher the very next morning, and then sent this email the day after that. Somehow, my communication is both too offensive and too little. Also, she seems upset that I am honoring her school’s 30-day notice policy and even giving them 45 days’ notice.

I’m truly unsure what I did to make this woman so angry at me. It is difficult for me to understand her email in which one sentence doesn’t seem to connect clearly to the next. She is defensive, personal, and probably inadvertently offering a clue to why I see so much meanness on that playground and why Sophie is so reluctant to go to school every day.

It makes me reconsider the way I had been discreetly telling my friends, “The school isn’t for us, but it might work for other kids…”

It makes me reconsider the way that I had been politely refraining from naming the school on this blog. Here, I’ll name it clearly: Leucadia Children’s School, the Little Red School House on Vulcan, is a place where the staff is too distracted to notice my quiet child’s bleeding wound and then angry at me when I tell them about it. You can read more details about my experience with Leucadia Children’s School here and here.

It makes me wonder whether there is any way to get Sophie into a new school earlier than 6 weeks from now.

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4 responses to “Preschool Anger

  1. Alicja

    I would switch schools sooner, if you can of course !

  2. Leonie

    i’ve been meaning to “comment” on so many of your entries since i first started reading your blog, elaine. thank you for your brave sharing of the uncomfortably challenging and insanely magical and beautiful parts of parenting. i am repetitively impressed by your willingness to acknowledge what you don’t know and/or what you fear… stepping past the “look good” which paralyzes so many of us as parents. i ditto the comment someone made about not having any complaints about quinn’s preschool. something awesome for sophie does exist and i am hoping that option falls into your hands easily and quickly. good luck my dear, on this crazy journey. we just added little guy number 2 to the mix… wow, that’s stirred everything up for sure. best to you, L.

    • elewinnek

      Thanks, Leonie! I love keeping in touch with you, if only at this distance. And I love it that you think I’m brave. I don’t actually feel brave, of course. I feel that I don’t know any other way to write about this crazy experience of motherhood. Good luck with #2!

  3. Marla

    Elaine, thank goodness you trusted your instincts, and Sophie’s, and removed her from that preschool. The director’s reply to your very reasonable concerns was disturbing.

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