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...