Monday, October 04, 2010

Everyone Needs Her Own Special Place -- by Jamie Levine

After spending almost three years at the same daycare center, Jayda started attending a new nursery school in September, and she’s clearly thriving there. Every weekday morning, Jayda paces around in front of the door, anxious for her school bus to arrive, and her bus driver (who teaches in the classroom next door to Jayda’s) tells me that Jayda always has a smile on her face. The folder Jayda brings home in her backpack every evening is packed with artwork and reports of the fun activities she enjoyed, and my daughter always bounds off of the bus with a happy face, and tells me she had a “great” day.

All of this thrills me, of course—and validates the fact that I made the right decision in regards to Jayda’s schooling. But ever since Jayda started her new school, she’s been tight-lipped about what goes on during her days there. In the past, when I picked Jayda up at her old daycare center, and asked her about her day, she usually mentioned a few girls whom she'd played with, arguments they may have had, and specifics about some of her activities there. Now, when I ask about her day, Jayda constantly puts me off and says she’ll tell me “later.” When I press her, she’ll grudgingly tell me that she “played” and “had a fun day.” When I ask her whom she played with, she always mentions her best friend (whom she knew before school started) and insists, “that’s it!” If I ask her whom she likes at school, she’ll mention her best friend again, and name a few of her teachers—but never any other kids. And I know my normally very social child must be playing with other children every day…but no matter how much I dig, she won’t reveal their names with me.

Sometimes I try to trick Jayda into sharing information with me; I tell her about my day, and when I describe my lunch, for instance, I casually ask about hers. She’ll tell me about the food she ate, but when I ask her whom she sat with at lunch, Jayda always insists it was only her best friend—and changes the subject.

Even though it’s clear to me that Jayda is enjoying school, I have, on occasion tried to make sure by questioning her outright. Some nights I ask Jayda if she wants to go back to her “big girl school” (which is what we call her new nursery school) in the morning, and she always says “yes.” And a few times when we’ve driven by her old daycare center, and Jayda has commented on it—or waved to the building—I've casually asked her if she wants to go back there; she always responds with a resounding “no!”

The other day, I received a newsletter in the mail from Jayda’s nursery school that mentioned some events that would be happening there in October. I read out loud to Jayda that they’d be attending a Fall festival in a few weeks—and that she’d get to pick pumpkins, go on some rides, and eat special treats on her school’s campus; she was thrilled. The next day, I mentioned the fair we’d be going to with our friends over the weekend, and I stressed how much fun she and I were going to have together. Jayda got very upset. With tears welled up in her eyes, she cried, “You’re coming? I don’t want you to come!” Huh? Confused, I explained that she had to have an adult with her at a fair, and that I wasn’t going to just send her with her friend and her friend’s mommy. She insisted “I want to go with my teachers!” Suddenly everything made sense; Jayda had thought I was referring to her school festival. I assured her that I was not coming to that—it was just for her and her classmates, and her teachers—and Jayda smiled with relief. And then things became even clearer to me; nursery school is Jayda’s own private place. Her mornings, evenings, and weekends are spent with her mommy—and I’m intricately involved in every facet of her life—but school is just for Jayda. If I have any concerns or specific questions, I can always talk to Jayda’s teachers, who are lovely and very accessible. But from now on, I’m not going to press Jayda for information. If she wants to share details with me, that’s wonderful. And if she has any concerns, she knows I’m always here to help. But if she doesn’t want to talk about her days, she deserves her own space—and her own special place—and I'm so glad she's found that at her school.


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