My daughter loves preschool. And I couldn't be happier.
We had a very rough transition to preschool. She's only three and a half, and there was a part of me that thought that she could wait and just have the one year of preschool before starting kindergarten. I had made a similar decision with my son, and then ended up pulling him out of preschool entirely and giving him an extra year at home (which, for the record, did not make that transition to kindergarten any easier).
Each child benefits from coming after the one before. Which, as an oldest child, I recognize as unfair but totally true. Sam got a more experienced mom because I had learned from Jessie and Julie gets an even better mom because I've learned from him. What I learned from Sam was that the easier I could make the transition from being at home full time to being an independent and confident little kid, the better.
So - preschool. Two mornings a week, two and a half hours a day. A gentle little introduction into being without Mama. Learning to trust her teachers, to have fun with kids her own age. The JCC even throws swimming lessons into the mix, so she gets to swim on a morning when there's snow falling on the ground.
The first few weeks were hellish. Absolutely awful, and I wanted to quit so many times - whisk her into my arms, and bring her home and keep her with me forever. She cried every single day. Worse on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but she's cry on a Saturday afternoon because Tuesday was coming up next week and she'd have to go to preschool. She spent the first couple of weeks of preschool sequestered up in the "castle" - a tiny little loft type thing. I'd walk her into school, and put her in what felt like a cage (because it's got bars) and leave her there to sob for two hours. Even though her teachers assured me that she was doing great - she was actually learning to self-soothe and take what she needed to calm down. She was observing everything, and would come home and tell us about her adventures like she had actually participated, instead of watching. Eventually, she started coming out of the castle. She started bringing pictures home, and when I'd come to get her, she'd be running around the playground and hugging her friends. Chattering about her teachers and bragging about things she did in preschool.
She was out sick last week with a cold, and had missed both days. So I was prepared this morning for a massive regression. But...she was fine. She woke up a little fussy, but was quickly distracted by the snow falling. She happily ate her breakfast (insisting on eating the same as her big sister), and they picked out hats and gloves and scarves for the snow. She bounced into school and was happy about seeing her cubby, hanging up her stuff and going inside. She got a little misty-eyed then, and asked me to pick her up, but I let her pick out a book and put her up in the castle. She gave me a soggy kiss, and then her teacher came over and showed her the new art project that she'd be working on today - and Julie forgot about me and immediately clambered down to start coloring.
I'm so, so glad that I didn't listen to my instincts, that I didn't give in to all of my urges to NOT send her. Because she's so delighted with herself, so happy about going to school and learning and hanging out with her friends. My baby girl loves preschool, and in the end, this will mean that transitioning to kindergarten will be so much easier for her.