I am sure I am not the first mummy in the world to hear that line.
But for some reason, I was told this is a bad thing. Having spent some months trying to justify my children’s attitude, I am starting to wonder why I am bothering. Is it so bad that they are not desperate to go? Their gan is oversubscribed, quite lengthy (even with their early pickup time which we campaigned vigorously for) and not everyone enjoys being sociable every morning!
Earlier in the year, my 3 year old seemed quite keen on the idea of gan, but he often cried when I left him in the early days. Some mornings he said he doesn’t want to go, and when I ask why he said “I don’t want to play with the other children”. Is this such a bad thing? Kids at that age can be quite mean! They are not necessarily the best company. Still he seems happy when I collect him, (although this could be because he is going home). 8 months on he walks in very confidently and usually wants to go. But even now some days he says he finds things boring, he wants to be at home, or that something wasn’t “fun”. When he gets home he often plays outside alone for a while, probably to unwind before he comes into the house. Some days both children rip off their shoes and socks (we have a rule for outside – either they wear shoes or they go barefoot. I dont mind. Just not socks outside!) anyway they dash out to my friend 4 doors down who homeschools. They regard her home as freedom – a garden which is not manicured, a relaxed approach (not anarchy, just no unnecessary rules) and they clearly pick up on the children being free spirits and want to be around them and their activities. I say what a blessing to be exposed to 2 worlds. But of course when we open our children up to choices, we make our lives that bit more difficult. Does that mean we should contain them?
I believe, it’s entirely possible that even with the best gan in the world, some children might just prefer to be at home. I know this, because I was that child. I liked being at home, with my toys and my books and my space. I didn’t like large groups of noisy kids. I found it easier to concentrate alone. I wasn’t keen on new environments or having to cope with sudden change. People have preferences, why is it deemed “wrong” for a 5 year old to state his feelings? My son enjoys being at home with his mum, we have fun together! Surely this is a good thing? I have a friend who works fulltime and her son attends extended daycare. In response to my comments about the gan finishing time of 2 being too long, she told me that when she collects her son at around 4.30, he often does not want to come home! I don’t tell her that this must mean he has a miserable home life. I think – thank goodness she has a child that is happy with their situation! But for some reason, the opposite scenario of not wanting to go to gan is seen as an issue where we need to “fix” the child.
I disagree. I think he is fine as he is.
I have tried as much as possible to encourage my kids to be free thinkers, and to explore things and be independent. Perhaps this makes it harder for them to “fit in” at gan. Perhaps they found it harder to adjust having spent an entire summer with their family, and not in camp or daycare with these children every day. Who knows. But before I sent him to gan, Husband and I decided that whilst we may not be cut out for home schooling, we would always listen to our kids, and if they were not happy somewhere, we would explore other options. With education, we often feel that our choices are limited for our children. We maintain that school is essential for them. Despite evidence that school was created, essentially, as a babysitting service so that parents could work, it is still regarded as the ideal. I am not sure that this is truly putting our kids best interests at heart. I think this is called Making the Best of It.
Or as my A level RS teacher used to phrase it in our ethics classes (G-d bless Mr Drucker, whatever happened to him??) “You can’t get an ought from an Is.” Just because israelis have been sending their children to gan, for long hours (recently extended hours) for many years, doesn’t mean this is necessarily the right thing for the child. Are we supposed to be training our children to do what we want them to do? To sit quietly on chairs and produces representational artwork? To go from activity to activity in prescribed schedule and possibly miss out on the creative runaway train that children (and some adults) often want to jump on?
I recently finished reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. Before (and during) his long political career, he was an academic, a hard worker, a self-educator. He describes his childhood growing up in a small village next to a river. He does not feel in any way disadvantaged by spending the first 10 or so years of his life running around barefoot in the country, with little structured activity and certainly no formal education. In fact he thinks it probably did both his mind & body good. As one of the most inspiring leaders of the last century, I am inclined to agree with him.