My kid did WHAT?!? Sharing the Toddler Experience

My kid did WHAT?!? Sharing the Toddler Experience

By Brooke Blanchard

You never forget the moment your child is born. No matter how it comes about, you’re suddenly handed this beautiful tiny human with dazed blinking eyes and the softest skin you have ever touched in your entire life. Watching this new person as they drift off into a deep sleep or grab your finger and gently scratch you with inexplicably long fingernails, it is impossible to imagine them ever not being this innocent and perfect for all of time…

Then they turn three.

While they continue to enchant us and bring us immeasurable joy, toddlers are frequently straddling the line between feral and dictatorial. As their conscripted guardians, we parents find ourselves wearing numerous hats throughout the day to maintain order: a healer hat, a mind-reader hat, a personal injury attorney hat, a janitorial hat, and a chauffeur hat… to name just a few. More often than not, we find a way to wear two or more hats at the same time. It’s a dizzying juggling act that can leave us mentally and physically exhausted by the time our toddlers fall asleep and once again return to that state of peaceful innocence and quiet stillness.

Despite the daily reminders that our lovely toddlers are fallible humans, it can come as an unwanted surprise when another parent points out unpleasant behavior to us. On my two-year-old daughter’s first day at CCNS last year, a seasoned CCNS mom came up to me to tell me that my daughter “had a great day, but has trouble sharing.” My initial reaction was to feel defensive and hurt by what felt like a criticism of my precious first-born child. But what was I so upset about? I knew better than anyone that she hadn’t learned to share yet. I live with her for Pete’s sake! Was my feeling one of embarrassment? Was it shame? Why was I so sensitive to hearing about my child’s completely expected behavior? This same thoughtful and kind-hearted CCNS mom later explained things in a way that enlightened me to one of the joys of parenting. Her comment that day was not a judgment about my daughter. It was an observation about where she was in her development on that day.

Co-oping provides the opportunity for observation every day; either you or another parent is in the classroom or on the playground observing your child’s growth and exploration. Co-op parents can tell you in September that your two-year-old isn’t sharing, but they can also be the one to tell you in January that your child happily handed over the coveted Elsa costume to another kid when asked. Moreover, when you enter the classroom yourself, you experience a spectacular sense of relief and near nirvana-level calm when you realize that every single other kid struggles and has bad days like yours. When parents (and teachers!) come together to traverse toddlerhood together, it removes the feelings of doubt and embarrassment and replaces them with judgment-free camaraderie.

There is a common saying. “Me before kids: I am going to run such a tight ship! Me after kids: Annnnnnnd the ship is on fire.”  A lot of our time is spent trying to put out these frequent blazes, usually by counting to three, bribery, or the old pick em’ up and go move. However, sometimes it might be OK to take a moment to stop throwing buckets of water on the burning ship and just sit back and enjoy the beauty of the light with your fellow shipmates.

Working and Co-Oping: Finding the Balance

Working and Co-Oping: Finding the Balance

by Brooke Blanchard

My grandmother – a lifelong New Yorker – was as tough as she was warm. She lived through the depression, lost her brother in the South Pacific, married and raised 3 daughters, and worked for decades as a school teacher. When I was in college, I regularly visited her apartment for dinner and would often be on the receiving end of lectures that, much like her personality, could seem at odds with each other.

Most often she lamented extensively about my single status. She advised me to sit in the lobby of the Columbia University Law School with my hair down and act like I was lost. A nice law student would surely come to my aid, and marriage (and children) would soon follow. She said this with complete sincerity and unfeigned urgency. One evening however, she sat down next to me and told me that no matter what, I must always vigorously pursue interests and work outside of my marriage and children.  To a 19-year-old, these sounded like conflicting priorities that couldn’t co-exist together. Today, I know they are conflicting priorities. But they can coincide via a complicated juggling act.

Millions of men and women struggle everyday to balance hands-on dedicated parenting with successful professional pursuits. The decision to pursue both can be personal, financial necessity, or both. In doing so however, life can become a one-person game of Twister; contorting your body into absurd and uncomfortable positions with a hand and a foot in different spheres of life, all while trying not to topple over. It’s a constant push and pull that more often than not makes you feel like neither side is getting a fair shake. A deadline is missed and a toddler is yelled at for no reason other than stress.

Enrolling your child in a co-op preschool is just one way parents can be more hands-on and involved in their kid’s life. And while it is incredibly fun, it can also put a lot of time management pressure on those who also have to work. It’s another circle in the game of Twister. Whether you work full time in an office, part time at home, or some combination of both, fulfilling your co-oping responsibilities and keeping it as a priority in your life can be difficult. Not to mention the feelings of guilt it creates when another parent needs someone to step in and you consistently decline due to a prior professional commitment.

This is not to say that only working parents struggle with conflicting priorities. I’ve met incredible people at CCNS. Men and women who have jobs, who manage their household and other kids, who take care of ailing family members around the clock, and who are still figuring all this stuff out. Everyone has a story that is compelling and filled to the brim with hard decisions, anxiety, and fulfillment. As a mother of two with no childcare, a part-time job, and an evening gig as an adjunct professor, I felt inclined to focus on the issue of working and co-oping because I live it.

Working and co-oping can be a challenge. Sometimes it works out just fine. Sometimes it does not. Both are perfectly acceptable, and families will endeavor to do what they believe is best for them. Perhaps, in between complaining about not wearing my hair down enough and inspiring me to professional and financial independence, my grandmother could have warned me about how challenging it would be to balance the priorities of family and work. However, knowing her, if I had asked how to do it, she would have looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Figure it out hon.”