Alden's transition to preschool seems to be going well, although, it was a bit stress and anxiety producing for about a week there. I know a week doesn't sound like anything. Heck! A week is nothing in the normal course of things -- particularly, when I'm often scheduled (and the kids are often scheduled) months out. But, in the midst of a difficult transition -- a week seems like an eternity.
As I wrote previously, Alden was enjoying school and the upside of this whole saga is that he was enjoying school throughout the difficult time of which I write. He was doing great at drop off, grabbing his mat and whatever project he wanted to start before the morning recess, participating in circle time, happy as a clam at pick up, and the tantrums in the evening even mostly went away. All was going fine -- except at naptime.
Backing up a bit... Alden seems to have inherited my stubbornness and Eric's proclivity for pushing limits and testing boundaries. And, Alden is a very smart little boy. He is very tuned into feelings -- both his own and the feelings of others. And he has an amazing memory. These are all wonderful personality traits in certain settings. Naptime at a new preschool did not prove to be one of those settings.
Naps are the golden hours of any child care provider. Whether providing care for one child or multiple children. That break in the middle of the day is golden and it is a crisis if those precious hours of rest get disturbed. I get it. And, particularly at a preschool, it is critical that the kids get rest in order to not have a chain of toddler meltdowns plaguing your afternoon. I get it.
I also get that Alden is no used to sleeping on a mat in the middle of a room surrounded by other kids. So, he didn't do it. The first few days he cried at naptime. His child care providers thought he was crying because he missed us. I'm sure that was a piece of it. But, I think he was also crying because he just didn't want to lay down on the mat. And, on one of those first days, rather than just making sure he did what everyone else did and ignoring his requests for an alternative, one of the teachers picked him up and cuddled him and held him for the entirety of the naptime. Big mistake.
As I said before, Alden is very good at reading people -- and I think he pretty quickly picked up on two things. They wanted him to nap, or at least lie down but - more importantly - they were open to negotiation. Sigh.
As the week progressed, they tried different strategies, including just ignoring Alden. Alden was no longer crying at naptime (except maybe for the first 10 minutes or so) -- but he also was refusing to lie down. His teachers said he would sit on his mat, swaying back and forth, his head bobbing up and down, fighting sleep with all his might. And, he prevailed. For three days in a row. No naps. No lying down. Traumatized teachers.
I got a call on Friday from the Director who told me that she didn't think it was working out. Alden was having too tough of a time with the transition. Really? I was a bit taken aback. I knew he was battling naptime, but otherwise he was completely happy at school. She agreed, but naptime issues seemed to be a non-starter. I told her we would work it out, but I was beside myself.
It is so easy to question yourself as a parent. Even though I knew that Alden was just waging a battle. I knew the issue was the nap itself and, more specifically, the mat. But, I still questioned myself. Was he too young? Was he struggling with a transition? Was he traumatized being separated from us all day? All of those things seemed crazy -- particularly since he had been watched by other people for the working hours of the day since he was 7 months old.
I blew off a conference call to pick Alden up early that Friday and have a talk with the Director. I wanted her to know how sincere we were in wanting to find a solution. But, I also wanted to probe deeper and make sure there were not other issues going on that I wasn't aware of -- some other underlying cause of the naptime drama.
In that conversation, she affirmed how happy Alden was all day and what an easy temperament he had at all times other than naptime. And she recalled other children who had trouble transitioning to school and how they were just miserable all hours of the day -- agreeing that Alden was not having those struggles.
So, I said to her, "I think the issue is actually just the nap. Can you go over the exact naptime routine and times here so I can replicate that at home?" She thought that was a good idea, and walked me through the schedule and exactly how the prepped for naptime. Then I asked if I could borrow the mat for the weekend. Take it home and spend some time making the mat something that was less foreign and weird. Building expectations around it. The Director thought that was worth a go and we located Alden's mat.
The Saturday mat was hard. I pulled it out and Alden looked at me as if I had lost my mind. And then he put his foot down . Literally. And told me no. No mat. No nap. No mat. It was like being at a protest rally of one. But, I have skills when it comes to protesting. And rebellions. And rallying. I tried a variety of things that naptime. They mostly didn't work. He didn't really nap. Although, I finally wore him out in the last 20 minutes of naptime and he fell asleep. And that was my chance -- when he woke up (or, more correctly, when I woke him up) we threw a little mat party. He did it! He slept on the mat! It was the most exciting, cozy, awesome thing every. And, next time, if he could lay down on his mat without such a fuss he could have a prize.
Alden is very good at holding onto information. His interest was piqued at the word prize. That night, rather than putting him in his bed, we had him go to sleep on the nap (I only had the weekend to turn this around -- I needed all the rest times/sleeping times I could get!!) He was so exhausted, he went right to sleep on his mat. And in the morning, I did another celebration AND he got the prize. Alden was hooked. The mat was fun. It was cozy. We played games on the mat. He took his nap Sunday without issue. He slept on it Sunday night. He got more prizes -- but we were holding out the big one (a watercolor set and new paintbrushes he had picked out from Target). For that, he needed to take a nap at the mat while at school.
Monday came and was a no go. No tears, but no napping. He sat in protest the entire time. His teacher said he was hilarious because when she caught his eye, he smiled at her and waved. He sat there for TWO hours without crying, without laying down, and seemingly enjoying himself. The kid has staying power. He will make an excellent protester later in life. But, he didn't get the prize.
Tuesday came and I showed him the watercolors before he left the house. I told him he needed to take a nap at school. Naps are cozy! Mama loves naps. And that was it. At naptime, he laid down on his mat and went to sleep. Eric picked him up at that night while I was at soccer with Kailey. When we walked in the door, Alden came tearing to greet us from the living room hollering, "PRIZE! PRIZE!"
He got his watercolors. Drew one picture. And napped every other day that week -- no additional prizes necessary.
I don't think this whole thing would have worked out this way with many other toddlers. Alden has a remarkable ability to understand cause and effect, to be reasoned with (and bribed). And, he is stubborn but also just needed to really understand and be comfortable with the situation. He was communicating about his emotions throughout -- in his toddler way -- and all it took was taking some time to practice, to talk about it, and to throw in a few incentives. And he got there.
Hopefully he keeps it up this coming week. I've been gone the last 4 days for work, so he may be out of sorts come Monday morning (since he won't see me until Monday morning). I'm hoping to avoid a setback. And, I'm hoping if we have one, his teachers we realize that we can work through it together.