Three random observations and updates for you on life as a mom. It’s been a hectic few weeks with some significant highs and lows.
- High: Mini got into her first choice twos program, and will start next fall at a lovely Montessori. Some of my friends think I’m crazy to have committed to a school that is a subway ride away when there are programs walkable from our apartment, and, well, maybe I am. But I am also a firm believer in the Montessori model and willing to take on the commute to expose her to it. My mother was a Montessori school teacher and we all attended Montessori, as have all of my nephews. We’re a Montessori family. For those unfamiliar, the program is all about structured independence, and the classrooms are full of wooden child-sized versions of everyday home objects/activities that are transformed into lessons in math, motor skills, art, reading. There’s a flower arranging station, a bean counting station, a water pouring station, zipping/buckling station, a child-size broom and mop, a letter tracing station, etc, etc. Children are empowered to select what “work” they want to undertake each day, with their teachers (“guides”) helping them along so that they graduate from more basic activities to more complex ones, scaffolding their learning. It’s phenomenal and right up mini’s alley: she is the type of girl who sits in her booster seat for thirty or forty minutes sorting barrettes into bins, moving repositionable stickers meticulously from a pile to the page. I had been highly flustered by the prospect of applying to preschools, especially when I discovered I had friends who had hired consultants to assist them (non-trivial friends, too! these are serious, smart, non-frou-frou people whom I respect!), and others telling me that “at a minimum, you’ve got to apply to twelve programs.” Ah!!! (For the record, I applied to four colleges.) All I can say is that I believe the process is overhyped, an observation corroborated by most of the parents I have talked to who have already sent their children to twos programs here in Manhattan. “If you like a school, and commit to that school as your top choice — it usually works out,” said one mom. “It’s easier to get a kid into your top choice program at two than it is at three,” enthused another. And: “Everyone was saying how competitive it was, but I found that when I withdrew our applications to two of the schools we’d been considering, the schools actually reached out to us to encourage us to continue the application process! They wanted more kids!” explained a third. It helped, of course, that we knew what kind of program we wanted, and that we were able to articulate our affinity for the Montessori program easily. I think the schools probably liked that we were familiar with the model and could “speak the lingo,” as the interview process (yes, an interview process — complete with an essay, tour, and visit) is as much about finding parents who are open to the school’s approach as anything else. Further, because we wanted a Montessori school, the pool of potential schools to consider was far smaller and less overwhelming. I’ll admit that for a hot second, I considered applying to a non-Montessori school with a great reputation that is noted for being exceptionally difficult to get into. But when I factored in its location (East Side, would require a bus or long walk every morning and afternoon), its inconvenient schedule (only a few hours a few days a week), and its intense application process, I thought — what am I doing? Let’s return to basics: I want my daughter to go to a Montessori if at all possible. I know that means a commute will be involved (there are no walkable Montessoris from our house), and I’d rather have one that is a quick subway ride than an earnest mile plus walk every day (snow and rain?! ugh!) I also think the program should mesh with our own schedules: the school I had momentarily considered had a varied, few-hour-a-day schedule a few days a week, and it would have meant I’d need to walk her there, then find a coffee shop or run errands on the east side until pick up time two hours later. It was just too much. The other aspect that helped us, I think, was that we were on the fence about whether mini should go to school at two or three years old to begin with, and so we were comforted by the idea that if she didn’t get in this year, we’d just try again the next. You will never get a straight answer on this topic from any mother, by the way. Mothers who send their children to school at two insist that it’s better for socialization, that their children are so much more advanced in so many ways, etc, etc. Mothers who send their children to school at three insist that twos programs are “glorified daycare, but with a ridiculous price tag” and that their children have plenty of stimulation at home. So what I learned is this: take in all of the advice you can get, but then sit down and think about your child and your own situation. Sometimes a twos program is necessary owing to your work, or because you feel your child needs more socialization, or — being honest here, as no one will admit this up front — because you have several children at home and you need some relief. And that’s totally fine. Sometimes a twos program feels unnecessary because your child is already enrolled in a range of activities and you spend all your time with him. And that’s totally fine, too. Mr. Magpie and I waffled on this front for some time. On the one hand, we felt that mini would thrive in the environment — even now, at 20 months! — and were dying to get her into a classroom, knowing that she’d take to it like a fish in water. We were also swayed by the fact that it was probably easier to get her into one of the coveted schools we were considering at two vs. three. On the other hand, neither of us started school until we were three, and we feel we turned out fine. We also felt she would be stimulated at home, where I keep her busy with ballet and music and trips to museums, and read to her for long portions of each day we spend together. So — ?! At the end of the day, we were so enamored of the program that we decided to start her at the age of two (i.e., next fall), and we know it’s the right decision. But my point is this: you do you / you do you / you do you. I know a lot of you had written in with questions about the application process in NYC — feel free to ping me! I’m an open book — though I’m only one perspective!
- Low: [updated after initial publication] I had originally detailed a recent change in mini’s childcare here, but a thoughtful reader wrote in (see her comment below) and — she was right. Some things are better, more gracefully, left unsaid. Thank you for setting this straight.
- Highs and Lows, aka The Normal Cadence of Motherhood: Awhile ago, I wrote to say that mini had decided, peremptorily, one evening, that she was done with her highchair (<<which we loved) and wanted to sit in a chair at the table. The problem was that she’d get down every thirty seconds, and mealtimes quickly devolved into a frustrating hour of grazing, wandering around, and our frustrated urging that she return to the table to have another bite. A few girlfriends suggested using a booster seat and we were delighted to discover that her little booster seat still fit her when we removed the red insert. At our friends’ suggestion (thanks, S. and E.), we made a *big deal* of unveiling the “big girl” seat for her. She bought it. Mealtimes are now back on track. The final hurdle is that she still prefers to drink milk out of a bottle. We’ve gotten to the point where she will drink most of it out of this kind of sippy cup when presented with her meals, but will occasionally — sporadically — beg for her bottle. So we’re almost there — but not quite. I feel like we’re quickly coming up on an age where drinking out of bottles seems wrong. Any recommendations for finally retiring the bottle welcome.
So there we are. A view into my scattered, trial-by-fire experience of motherhood over the last couple months. Proof that I don’t have it all together — ha! — but also, evidence that I am learning.
+A bunch of you wrote in to recommend a toddler toilet seat “cover” instead of a “potette” (still laughing at the word, Diana) as it would require one less transition. I have been deferring this purchase for awhile because I have heard horror stories about starting toilet training too early, but mini is giving us major signals that she is ready. I’m ordering this one (read the reviews). Budget pick (also decent reviews): this one.
+We recently graduated to a new toothbrush for mini and she adores it. (We use this toothpaste.) We often accompany tooth-brushing time with this book, which we sing to the tune of “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” We had also heard (maybe from a Magpie?) that the Elmo video on toothbrushing on youtube is perfect for teaching good oral hygiene and that the length is perfect for playing while kiddos are brushing teeth. However, we haven’t needed it — she is usually excited to brush her teeth as we stand her on the counter of our bathroom sink and she watches herself in the mirror. (Mr. Magpie often brushes his teeth while she does, too.)
+Mini is finally able to wear pigtails! I’m dying. I just ordered these darling pigtail bows.
+Mini is…active in Church on Sundays. I decided to bring toys that she can only play with at Church. My first pick — little cars — was poor. They made too much noise in the pew! I found these magnets and think she’ll flip over them on Sunday!
+Speaking of this weekend: Advent starts on Saturday! I had wanted to order one of these gorgeous ones from Etsy but they sold out for the season before I got my act together. I ordered this simple burlap style from Target for the time being. I like that it’s petite and rollable — key for New York life. I’m actually heading out to the physical Target in Manhattan as soon as I finish this post to raid the $1 section looking for little treats to put in the pockets. Maybe a few crayons tied with ribbon one day, a new hairbow another day, a little packet of goldfish another, and then — every now and then — something really fun, like a new dollbaby. Nothing too crazy for most of the month, but enough to make the entire season exciting. I’m lifting this tradition from Mr. Magpie’s mom. (Also, Mr. Magpie and I decided we think we’re not going to do Elf on the Shelf; we’ll instead stick to the excitement of the Advent calendar, which is more anchored — albeit loosely — in the Christian tradition. That said, we’ll see. I think it might be tough if all of mini’s friends are visited by the Elf…)
+Yet another reminder to act early and soon for the holidays: the Fisher Price Nativity Set I had been eyeing for mini sold out at it’s original Prime price (which was like $30 with free shipping). Now it’s only available for $40 plus shipping of like $10 or $12, which seems wrong. I bought this little set from Target instead — and I actually LOVE the simple, Scandi styling. (Target FTW!)
+I know I’ve written about these before, but my sister-in-law sent mini a set of bathtub crayons out of the blue a few months ago and they are the absolute star of our bathing hour. She loves them SO MUCH. If you need a little gift for a mini, or a solid surprise for your own, consider this set. I gave it to mini on Thanksgiving and she flipped. She literally sprinted to the bathtub.
+PSA: If you want anything personalized by Cecil & Lou for the holidays, the deadline for ordering is tomorrow. I’ve had some very good luck finding darling holiday outfits for mini from here, though I find you have to sort of sift through to find the gems. For boys, I like these jammies, this toy soldier bubble, and this monogrammed style. For girls, I like this nightgown and this dress.
+These velvet party shoes!!! I’ll be doing a proper post on holiday dressing SOON!