Monday, May 20, 2013

Mommy Mondays: The Right Thing

Lately, I've been asking myself if what we're doing (you know, this whole living in Siberia deal) is the right thing. Not for us, but for Jack.

During our two weeks in Spain, Jack was noticeably happier than he is here. "Duh," you might say, "of course he was." He was spending every day with Mom and Dad, he got to go to the beach and eat yummy food and play outside without putting on eight layers of clothing. But I sort of think it was more than that. Even when we were in Moscow for three weeks, Jack loved his daycare. He ran in every morning without looking back and actually cried a couple of times when I picked him up. He kept talking about the American kids and his teachers, and during that brief time he learned new songs and new games. He did the things he'd be doing if we lived in America, even though we were still in Russia. And he got to play with other kids on the compound, kids who spoke English and had the same cultural references and didn't reach into his stroller and grab his head like some random Russian kid did in the airport last week.

Jack has been to four different preschools here in Yekaterinburg, and this week the nanny wants us to try a different one. She says he has stopped paying attention in class and doesn't want to be there. And can I really blame him? Where else is a three-year-old expected to spend 15 minutes doing one activity exactly the way the teacher demands before being escorted to the next activity for another 15 minutes, where no one smiles, no one can do things their own way, and the kids don't even interact with each other? There is no outdoor play time, no free time, no story time, nothing. It's music, art, articulation (?!), math. Boom boom boom. I wouldn't want to do it either!

There is currently one child left in Jack's play group who speaks English (the other two speak German and Swedish). That means Jack's entire peer social experience is limited to once a week, if the other family is in town, for two hours, with one child (a five-year-old girl). It's not even necessarily that I'm worried he's going to be behind once he starts school in the US (although I worry about that, too). I'm just worried he's not happy. He has told me multiple times in the past month or so that he wants to go to the "America house." It breaks my heart, especially since what I really want to say is, "ME TOO!"

Yesterday, John and I took Jack to the "playground" closest to our house. It consists of a small slide, a janky teetor totter, and swings that were occupied by two preteen girls. The playground is adjacent to the dumpsters where we take our trash (about a block from our house, which is a special treat in itself), and while Jack was going up and down the slide, a couple of men came to sift through the dumpsters. That's my kid's playground. I know all parents ask themselves if they're doing the "right thing" for their kids, but I feel like this is a little different than Montessori versus Waldorf. Every child, no matter where they are, should have other children to play with. Denying my child that makes me feel, now more than ever, like a pretty crap parent.

For the most part, Jack seems relatively happy. But he's three! Would I know if deep down he was really unhappy? How does a toddler convey something like that? What is the right thing? I just don't know...

7 comments:

L-S-E said...

Aw, I am sorry to hear this. It's hard trying to know and do what's best for your child, and this lifestyle doesn't make it any easier. But I am sure Jack is happy because he has two parents that love him. I know it's tough though. Here's to hoping you guys get a very kid-friendly post next time. Hang in there :)

alex said...

Sorry to hear this. I do think kids are resilient, though, and if nothing else the experience is unique, and there's something to be said for that.

Do you guys know where you're going next? We've had a better experience in Benin just in that the people are friendly, but the whole playground situation is similar -- there's just nothing to do outside of the house. Healthcare is bleak which terrifies us; luckily there have been no emergencies. There have been an influx of babies/toddlers in the expat community lately but for a long while we were the only ones. We've promised ourselves that never again when we have children living with us will we go to one of these small, remote posts. I'm hopeful that's a promise that's possible to keep, but time will tell. Of course, wherever we are, I still have to feel guilty about keeping him away from cousins, grandparents, etc...

The expat life is an interesting one in a lot of ways, but certainly not without its challenges.

alex said...

Sorry to hear this. I do think kids are resilient, though, and if nothing else the experience is unique, and there's something to be said for that.

Do you guys know where you're going next? We've had a better experience in Benin just in that the people are friendly, but the whole playground situation is similar -- there's just nothing to do outside of the house. Healthcare is bleak which terrifies us; luckily there have been no emergencies. There have been an influx of babies/toddlers in the expat community lately but for a long while we were the only ones. We've promised ourselves that never again when we have children living with us will we go to one of these small, remote posts. I'm hopeful that's a promise that's possible to keep, but time will tell. Of course, wherever we are, I still have to feel guilty about keeping him away from cousins, grandparents, etc...

The expat life is an interesting one in a lot of ways, but certainly not without its challenges.

Lynne said...

Mara, I am so sorry to hear things are going so badly for Jack. Here's a question: are you bringing him to preschool because you want him to experience the educational component, or just for something to do during the day, or something else? I'd say if none of the detsky sads are working out, you don't need to send him. I know my kids had such fabulous experiences with our nannies just exploring the city. If Jack is anything like Zoltan, you can eat up an entire day watching the metro trains and riding a bus, then a tramvai, then a marshrutka.

Good luck!

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I'm sorry to hear you're feeling bad, and unsure. If it helps, I think all mothers everywhere worry about whether or not they're doing it 'right.'
No one knows your kid better than you. You'd know if he was truly unhappy. Do what you think is best for your whole family and try not to worry too much about it. :)

Renae Weight Mackley said...

Hello there. Nice sharing of your feelings. It does my heart good that you care about your child and want the best for him even though I don't know you personally. Seeing or hearing about parents who love and nurture their children gives me hope for the future of the world. Just do your best to stay in tune with your child's feelings and base your decisions on what is best for your family as a whole. Then don't beat yourself up over that choice. If you find a change is needed later, you can make it.
Good luck and keep trying to be a good parent. Some days you can see the rewards and some days not, but overall you should know if you are headed in the right direction.

ExpatEliz said...

I know there's no worse feeling than thinking your child's unhappy. But also remember for a child, there's always something or somewhere better.
My kids, who are older and have only lived in France, constantly tell me they hate it here and want to go to America (especially when it's colder here than it is in Russia, as is the case right now apparently).
The truth is, we can never entirely please our kids. I think we have to find a balance for what's right for us parents and right for the kids. You're in an extreme situation right now (and I agree if he really doesn't like preschool, you shouldn't feel pressured to send him. I know lots of kids who only had nannies till 3 or 4 and were perfectly happy). But the situation is temporary and hopefully you won't ever have to be in another post with so few anglophone kids.
I really believe the most important thing you can give him are two loving, fulfilled parents.
xxE