Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Posts tagged ‘unhappy’

Preschool problems

My daughter is very clever. I know most parents say that about their children but DD taught herself to read shortly after turning 3, has the vocabulary of a much older child and can do basic sums and times tables. She has an utterly insatiable curiosity about everything, like most children her age, and sometimes it’s hard working out how to explain a concept she’s interested in to her in a way that she will understand (“Mummy, what’s a universe?”). She’s also very empathetic and caring.

When she started going to preschool last September she really enjoyed it, and that continued for a few months. But as this year has worn on she has become more and more averse to going. There’s been a minor upset with a couple of the other children (they don’t want to play with her, and DD doesn’t understand why not) but otherwise there haven’t been any hiccups. The reason she’s reluctant to go is simple – she’s bored. The sessions are 3 hours each weekday morning and are almost entirely play-focused. And that’s good, it’s great for DD to play with her peers, do singing and painting and all that stuff. But for her it’s not enough.

In the half-term that the children turn 4 they are allowed to join a special group that starts slowly introducing them to phonics and letters. DD won’t be 4 until next month so hasn’t been allowed to join this group yet, despite my pleas to the manager. When she does finally join the group this week she’ll be given a picture book to look at and a notebook with the letter S in, so that she can learn to recognise it. This is in spite of the fact that the staff have told me they regularly find DD sitting in the book corner reading to the other children.

Over the last couple of months it has become increasingly hard to persuade DD to go to preschool. She’s told the teachers that she’s bored (apparently her exact words were “Playing here is boring, I’ve got better toys at home and I can do reading there”). I’ve told the teachers that she’s bored. We’ve dropped her attendance to 4 mornings a week instead of 5 but I still have to leave her sobbing most mornings. Occasionally one of the staff will pull me aside at hometime to tell me that DD has been crying during the morning but usually I hear it from a friend whose son is DD’s best friend.

I appreciate that children of 3 and 4 are prone to tears and that the staff can’t always report every incident to parents. I understand that the manager didn’t want to change their policy about the special group just for one child. But my daughter has spent most of today either quiet and withdrawn or in floods of tears because she has to go back to preschool tomorrow and that’s not right. Quite apart from anything else I don’t want her to think that primary school will be like this, I don’t want her to be discouraged before she even starts.

I would love to remove DD from the preschool altogether but DH and I both think it’s important that she continues the social interaction. We also don’t want her to think that you can stay home from school just because you don’t want to go, because that can’t happen when she starts primary school in September. There are only 6 weeks left before the summer holidays and if this week goes badly we’ll drop another session so that DD goes just 3 mornings a week.

That’s what my head says is sensible. But my heart is torn in two seeing my sunny, cheerful girl so miserable. I hate making her go and I hate contributing to her unhappiness when it’s within my power to alleviate it.

When misery is selfish

A while ago I wrote this post about how I would dearly love to have more children but am unable to, mostly due to issues with my mental and physical health. I thought that I was gradually adjusting to the knowledge that DS is my last baby, that the large family DH and I yearn for will never exist. But this afternoon I was sorting through my maternity clothes and some baby clothes that DS has outgrown and I found myself sobbing quietly into a sleepsuit.

My last pregnancy wasn’t great, I suffered from AND (antenatal depression) and my mobility became so poor that I was housebound for the last month or so. But I would do it again in a heartbeat and the pain of knowing that I will never again know the thrill of having a small life growing inside me hurts me almost more than I can bear.

However I’ve been told on many occasions (mostly via social media but occasionally in person) that I shouldn’t feel like this, let alone admit it publicly. Apparently it is selfish and inconsiderate to those who are unable to have any children. I should count my blessings and stop feeling sorry for myself. Now, I have the deepest sympathy for anyone who wants children and cannot have them; I remember how desperate I was before DD was conceived and I can’t imagine the misery of knowing that you will never have a child. But I have come to realise that that doesn’t make my pain at not being able to have more children any less real, any less valid, any less painful.

As friends have pointed out to me, my having children doesn’t mean there are fewer children left for others – there isn’t a finite number to be shared out. Equally my pain should have no bearing on whether friends and acquaintances have more children; their reproductive decisions should be based on what is best for their family, not whether or not it will twist the knife a little deeper for me.

Conception isn’t the only topic where I have encountered this attitude; I have also been criticised when discussing poverty and finances. I have made no secret of the fact that DH and I are both out of work, that we have very little money, that every penny is stretched as far as it can go. But again I have been accused of selfishness if I admit that constantly counting the pennies and going without is stressful and makes me deeply unhappy. Yes, there are people who are worse off than I am, people whose children have no shelter, no doctors, no food. And of course I know this and I am grateful to live in my circumstances and not theirs. But knowing that there are many people worse off doesn’t make my money go any further. Knowing that there are families who are homeless doesn’t make me any happier about having to ask my mum to buy the children new shoes because we can’t afford to.

It can be helpful to remember that there are those less fortunate than ourselves. But there’s a difference between “Hey, it could be worse” and “You have no right to feel that way because of X”. Lecturing and berating someone for how they feel will not make them any less unhappy. It will change how they view you and whether they’re honest with you in the future. It may also change whether they’re honest with anyone else about how they feel or whether they merely bottle up the misery with an added dose of shame and guilt for feeling as they do.

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