The hunt was on. No, I don’t mean for the Kingfisher calendar girl. They are probably still looking for one who will model for nothing (no pun) even as they try to keep the planes afloat. I mean a different hunt altogether. I mean prey, oh pardon me, play school for my toddler.
Today was his first day, and even as he sits doing something away from his mother’s madly beating heart for the first time in 2 and half years, I write this. Hence, please excuse geysers of excessive melodrama and plunges of deep philosophy as I try to tell you how my journey of picking the most suitable play-school for my child has been.
Once upon a time I wrote ‘No play-doh without dough’ Today, I care to share how the final decision was reached.
How I went about looking for suggestions? Word-of-mouth, with all shapes of communication channels experienced, explored and exhausted (including Grapevine which is more complex than E=mc2). It did not mean I went around with a ‘Play-school suggestions needed’ tattooed on my forehead.
I asked people I trusted, or those whose parenting ideas matched mine. I also asked those whose pockets were the same size as mine, since I had no intention of over-reaching and certainly not as yet. And, over a month or so, I collected school names to shot-list with my husband for my son.
While people poured into my ears suggestions, I started preparing my son with the idea of a school too. Yes, I was paranoid and desperate for him to understand that it is not a jail where I send him to get rid of him.
I turned to YouTube for shows like Barney, books which treated the concept of school as a fun place and added to it all my own stories from school. (It’s a different matter that the stories were about me bullying my husband in school too, but something told me he could well imagine that already!)
I made his older cousins share their school-tales, show him their uniforms, their books-n-bags and water bottles. Why, I even made his naani, an educationist since 20 years now, show him the bespectacled look that most teachers flaunt.
Thus, as I did my ground work, I prepared the playing field in his mind too.
What we, as parents, wanted was a question we needed to articulate and answer in our heads before anyone else did it for us (an empty mind is the herd’s workshop!). For some time now, our pillows slept hearing school-talk. So, what did we want? Meaning – what does our child really need to go to play-school for? What are our expectations from the school for the 2-3 hours that he is going to spend there everyday? The following points were what agreed upon:
- We wanted him to understand and adapt to the idea of co-play. As a single child with no play-mate at home except his mother and father, he needed to be with children his age, stage and level of maturity. He needed to learn now what it is to share toys, sing-play-eat together, dig noses in unison and boast who found the biggest … oops, sorry, and in the process learn to understand and handle situations created by him on his own terms. Freedom from home, and independence – both!
- He needed to learn to obey people other than his parents. His perceptive mind and loving heart has never troubled us and heeded us when we wanted him to. But here, we were talking about his first group of teachers who were nothing but strangers to him. Despite being a scheduled baby already, it was important he obeyed instructions for a different routine – of prayer time, play time, study time, food time and goodbye time, in exactly that order.
- We wanted the school to not be gung-ho about ABCs, Calculus, 123s and Newton’s Laws. After all, what will the big boy school do with him otherwise when the time comes for him to don a tie, pull-up his socks and learn to say the word ‘nursery’? (Even as his parents sell their house, car, etc, to pay that hefty admission fee!) So for now, we wanted him to play in play-school, with a capital P. For the rest, there are his parents. Sending him away for 3 hours does not mean absolving ourselves from our parental roles, does it?
- And, he needed a well-deserved break from his momster-at-home. Anyone would!
Why we picked what we picked? There were options galore. We short-listed two. One was a tad fancier than the other. 3 floors of fancy chairs and tables, wall-paper and tiffins and a fashionable brigade of teachers handling 30 students in each class and many classes! We liked it. Seemed safe, clean, colorful and well-equipped with swings and slides his parents never used (Alas!).
He needed to sign in for a cab facility which would take 15 minutes from home to school, and the same time back. That meant, about a quarter of half hour extra on the road. The fee was affordable, but seemed a bit much considering I could buy him a factory of play-doh and blocks for the same money. But since the school mesmerized him with its grandeur as much as it appealed to our ‘modern’ side, we gave it a double tick in our list.
The other school was a smaller set-up, opened by a woman in her own house. We walked down one morning to see the school in running, considering it is two houses away from ours and within the same colony. To a mother’s heart, this proximity was a divine coincidence compared to the distance of the other school we had seen. He’s just 2 and a half and I don’t like the idea of cabs and Delhi roads and will he even be able to sit properly in one and how many children can the ayah hold in the car and what about emergencies when I need to run to school suddenly and what if WWIII breaks and dinosaurs get re-born and etc and blah – I went on and on for the 100 meters walk to school.
Apart from the distance, the warmth of the didi at the door ushering him in struck a chord with me. Within minutes, our son had forgotten us and was being lead to see and take in the newness, not mesmerized this time but more interested and smiling. More at home, actually! We spoke to the principal and gathered that the school laid stress on all the factors that we as parents had decided on, and in all, admissions stopped at a humble 20 students, no more. Him being the 20th! (Hand of divinity Herself?)
And here is where we walked him down today, fully confident of our pick and glad we could manage to think away from the maddening crowd and follow our own minds and hearts. As he ran to hug a little boy who was sobbing on seeing his parents leave, I felt assured that he will always carry and not unlearn the little lessons that his parents have tried to teach him. This small, warm, personal and homely set-up will help in keeping that intact. And whatever little money I saved in the process will be spent on buying him a bigger backpack, when the time comes. But for now, I want to enjoy walking him down to school.
There will always be a plethora of institutions to choose from. Some will hang a tag around your child’s neck for all times to come, others will remain like passing references in your little one’s chapter. However, there will be still others which will leave a permanent mark on your child’s mind and personality. As you go about looking for a play-school do remember – no matter what brand the shoe carries or how much it shines, the part that needs to be polished the most is the one that stands inside.
And there, it’s already time for him to come home!
Sakshi Nanda went from studying Literature to serving the print media and finally settling with two publishing houses who called her editor for a couple of hard-bounds, no more! She writes as a work-from-home mother to realize herself as well as to be read, both – with her 2-year-old boy and her sarkari babu beau as the greatest source of ideas and inspiration. She believes eating baby food is therapeutic and that the pen is man’s best invention, after diapers that is! Meet her at: sakshinanda.blogspot.in