Wednesday, February 10, 2016
This is Julianne, and I have to say, she's one of those people who I could not imagine where I'd be on my parenting journey without. When I first met her in September, the new teacher taking over the toddler program where my youngest would attend, I was fairly skeptical. Julianne is the definition of "best practices." She's got a wealth of experiences and she knows exactly how things should work and how they work right for her and these 18-36-month-olds. She was firm about children walking into the building by themselves, about their not having pacifiers or bottles, etc. I thought, "Oh dear. My Finnegan is awfully stuck in his ways, and I haven't the foggiest how he'll deal with no so easily said."
Turns out pretty smoothly. He wasn't in love with the transition--after all, he'd had Mommy to himself for so long--but after a week or two, he was in the rhythm and drop-off for him was miles easier than it was for my older girl, who'd had a year and a half of being handed off to assistants who would carry her to a window and wave. She couldn't fathom this sudden drop into school.
But this isn't about my daughter or my son. It's about Julianne, who decided Finn was "spinning his wheels," as they put it, in the toddler room, which meant it was time to transition him into that gem in the center of the Montessori crown--the Children's House, also known as preschool (through kindergarten, or ages 3-6). He still hasn't turned three yet, but this isn't the point. He did well at first, but something shifted, some tectonic plate slipped, and he began to sink into these crying--wailing!--jags that would last the entirety of the morning. I'd brace myself at pick-up and hear him and his banshee cries downstairs and my heart would shatter. I'm not sure what it was exactly, but we had some strange things happen in that time--we went to Chicago for my husband's work trip, and then I had some more-dramatic-than-I-anticipated surgery and he ended up missing a few weeks of school because it didn't seem quite the best to have Grandma deal with his writhing fuss.
There was a moment, though, when the turn began to appear to be a pattern, and I stood at the top of the stairs and listened to Finn cry after walking him downstairs and trying to ease him into work for the day. He was crying and Kai was telling him that he must stop crying and Julianne came to me, put a hand on my shoulder, and told me that it was OK, that he was indeed ready to be down there, but sometimes these things were so hard. I said I was afraid he didn't have any coping mechanisms, that he couldn't self-soothe, and she said, "But crying is his coping mechanism. He just needs to make a lot of noise." And she told me it would change and it took a long time and a lot of patience from all the adults who loved him involved, but these days, drop-off is fairly smooth, and I will never, ever forget the patience and guidance showed by myself and Kai, who had never had a kiddo from the toddler program graduate into the Children's House because, well, there had never been a toddler program until this year.
And for the record, there are more children than just DJ in the program, but the other littles were marching up and down the steps and squabbling in the reading corner (the assistant then read books to them, which made my heart all melty watching them and I had to resist scooping all of them up into my arms and swallowing them whole). The light is tricky too. There will be more glimpses, but for now, here's a few from the zen-like queendom that is Julianne's Toddler Program.