I will never forget the day that I took daughter to one of our local parks, aged about 2.5 years old and we watched a line of zombified kids, her peers, corralled out of the local full-time day care into the park; chivvied to undertake some fairly soulless uninventive play on the equipment and then corralled back before they’d barely filled their lungs with fresh air.
A couple of little ones who had been patiently waiting for a swing didn’t even get a go, they had spent 15 minutes just waiting, for nothing. I was amazed that they didn’t kick off in protest. They just fell in line without reaction. I was shocked.
As a bright and articulate only child with little family and few friends with children, none the same age, I did feel pressure to “socialise” daughter via sending her to some kind of preschool setting. I thought that she needed exposure to unfairness, to the odd snatch and shove, to help her grow up strong and balanced. I certainly couldn’t, as her mother, create that sort of dynamic when I was playing with her…
I toured the local private nurseries, most open from dawn til dusk and longer; babies from only a few months old left all day long; some children having all of their meals there on weekdays, only going home to basically sleep. Lots of the staff were lovely and loving but there was zero option for any of those children to spend a whole afternoon alone with an adult all to themselves, snuggled up on a sofa, dozing and chatting and just “being”.
I am not saying that any time in peer-based group activities is not good for kids, nor denying that my daughter was in part-time nursery school a few mornings a week from the age of 2; but I have very mixed feelings about that.
Daughter went to a very small term-time only nursery owned by two loving and wonderful women, It was run on little to no profit but loads and loads of love. I still feel that there was no better setting for her locally.
Other than at home with me.
Daughter never looked forward to going that much (with hindsight, the sensory aspect would have been really arduous for her) and if I had my time again, she wouldn’t have gone. I wish I’d had the courage of my convictions back then.
On reflection, I reconcile my unease with mutterings of ‘fate’ as one of the owners has subsequently been a rock for me through daughter’s various ups, downs and diagnoses, and I hope she will remain a life-long friend.
When I speak candidly with close friends who put their children in pre-school daycare because they “need” to work, after they’ve paid out for travel, work clothes and daycare (let alone the odd Starbucks and M&S sarnie), their remaining take-home money is often not much more than if they stayed at home and did not work at all.
This is justified by things like “otherwise we couldn’t afford to go on holiday” or “how would be pay for the car?” – two aspects of a young child’s life that they likely will not remember nor that will have a fraction of the impact of being at home with a parent more of the time.
Why are we scared of what will happen if we don’t socialise our children young? It certainly doesn’t mitigate autism (wry smile and wink).
In fact, as the below linked article discusses, daycare can actually lead to lower ‘non-cognitive’ abilities: boys showed higher levels of hyperactivity and aggression, while girls showed declines in pro-social behaviour, such as donating and volunteering: