Monday, December 06, 2010

The actual cost of preschool

Once again, you have helped to calm my anxious nerves a bit. Thank you. I have both some concrete steps I plan to take with Josh (one-on-one "learning fun time," for example) and some serious backing off to do on the worry throttle. A visit with a developmental specialist may also be in the offing, depending on what we hear back from his pediatrician, who up till now has seemed very unconcerned, chalking it up to him being "all boy."

So I will move forward on the assumption that he is probably fine. To paraphrase Amanda's comment, he may just be in a contrary phase, unwilling to please me by doing what I want him to do. He also favors his dad at every opportunity, seemingly just to crush my heavy heart into a goopy sad paste. (No, I don't want you to read me my night-night story, I want Daddy to read it to me!) So Jeff might actually get a better response from him than I do with letters and numbers and such. We're going to give that a try as well, and I will be both pleased and jealous if it works. Jeff--high school class salutatorian, former academic and quite possbily the deepest-thinking person I've ever met--was slow to talk and slow to read, according to his mom, whom I just interrogated on the subject. Maybe the slow start is in Josh's genes and portends nothing but good things for his future. (Am I laying on the optimism a little thick here, do you think?)

Again, thanks. Your comments were a relief.

So: On to another topic where I'll beg for further advice. As I mentioned in my last post, Josh & Olivia have been sick. A lot. More than a lot. In fact, neither one has been truly well and healthy for a full week since they started preschool--and official Winter hasn't even arrived yet.

Both kids sound like Mad Men-era smokers when they wake up. Then add in the congestion, sneezing and those godawful ear infections and pinkeye cycling through persistently and you get the picture. Josh has also had an infected toe, croup, stomach flu and a series of strange rashes, and Olivia has just been...not sure how to phrase it. Droopy, maybe. Tired and pale and languid. They have seen their beloved pediatrician (not to mention their new BFF ped at urgent care) countless times in the last five months, and pretty much each visit ends with new prescriptions for antibiotics or eyedrops. (We have about a dozen of those little plastic measuring syringes at this point; I've gotten very good at drawing up an exact teaspoon.)

We have been conscientiously keeping them out of preschool whenever there's a chance they might be contagious. Any fever, we keep them home. Significant cough, we keep them home. Snotty noses, we keep them home. Pinkeye, hell yes, we keep them home. So far, we're averaging more than one absence per kid per week, and they're only in school three days per. So we're getting less than 2/3 of what we're paying for, in terms of coverage.

Preschool looked like a downright bargain. For less than $1200 per month, both kids are cared for from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., M-W-F, including snacks and lunch--not bad, at least by Bay Area standards. Much less than a nanny. But when you figure in the 8-12 hours per week that Jeff ends up staying home with them instead of working, the cost advantage is lost. And when I think of the fact that, my god, my poor little kids are sick all the time, it feels a bit cruel to keep sending them.

Have you been in this position? If so, what did you do? Any tips for keeping kids healthy in the midst of a germ factory? I am all (infected) ears.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

When to worry

I was reassured by your comments on my post about the preschool behavioral weirdness. Thank you. It took a while, but we were able to get to the root of the problem with Olivia--wariness of her new (male) teacher and the loss of her best school friend to kindergarten. Josh seems to have found a couple of kids he enjoys playing with and was even invited to a birthday party by a kid who said Josh was his "betht fwend," so...whew.

I feel like I'm constantly nibbling at the edges of some worry or another when it comes to the kids. Four rounds of ear infections and pink eye and I'm freaking out that they're going to have tried and failed every antibiotic on the market, and we'll have to quarantine them till they're thirty. And when Olivia stopped responding to questions and instructions for a couple of days, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that there must be some kind of neurological problem going on, instead of thinking that maybe, y'know, she couldn't hear because of said ear infections. (The latest antibiotic seems to have done the trick, and she is back to her chatty self.)

So I'm not sure if my current worry is one I should even mention here, or if, in a few months' time, I will fee like an idiot for having brought it up. But it's been stuck in my craw for a while now, and I simply cannot talk about it with family or friends.

My fear is this: I'm worried about Josh's development. I'm not worried in an I-think-there's-something-terribly-wrong way; I think he's probably somewhere in the normal range. It's just that he's not bounding ahead, learning things in great leaps, hungry for more. He seems content just to play with his Legos and look at his digger books and ignore the rest.

Take the alphabet, for example. Olivia knew the alphabet well before she was two. She knew all the letter sounds and could write them before she was three; she could write her name unassisted by Josh's age. But Josh...just doesn't seem to care. He showed some interest in letters about a year ago, learned most of them by sight, then promptly forgot them. It is only in the last few weeks that he has started singing the alphabet song without eliding whole sections. He insists that his name starts with O, because Olivia's does. O is the only letter he can reliably identify, and he seems to have no interest in re-learning the rest. When I try to make a game of it, he puts on a big grin and guesses randomly, without even looking at the letter I'm pointing to. He still skips numbers and cannot count up a group of objects greater than five. More than five and he just gives up without trying.

He also--I am horrified to admit--has started lying. While Olivia is, for whatever inexplicable reason, scrupulously honest, Josh will say whatever is most expedient. He will lie about having washed his hands, put away his toys, put on clean underwear. And then he'll smile at us angelically, which we have come to realize is his tell. (Good to note in case he tries to take up professional poker down the road. I'll clean him out before he can make the tour.)

I know that kids all develop differently. I do. But I'm starting to wonder if we're failing him somehow; if we gave Olivia a better foundation because she had that undivided time as an only child, or maybe because we expect so much more of her as the older sibling. I try to tell myself that Josh has been working on those capital-B Boy skills--running, jumping, hurtling himself off furniture without any consideration of pain or danger--but I'm pretty sure that's a cop-out.

I'm not sure how to wrap this up, except to ask: Is this normal, too? What would you do, if you were me?