Shirani Alfreds is an expat mother of two living in Shanghai. She will be writing about her experiences in a regular "Dragon Mama" blog for Urban Family.
For those with kids in international schools, I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I think the summer holidays are seemingly never ending.
It’s not that I don’t love my children, I adore them, and in fact look forward to the school holidays to do all the things you don’t have time to do in a ‘normal’ school week. (Like go to the Zotter Chocolate Theatre to stuff your face using the kids as an excuse). After about week 3 of fun activities, however, week four starts becoming a little…draggy.
By week five, I sort of want my life back. There, I said it! I have a threshold for doing the kiddy activity thing and need to be a separate person from them. I'm not sure if this means I’m a bad person or not.
Then I read that separation anxiety in toddlers peaks around 18 months old (thank you BabyCenter updates). Mine is 17-months-old, and what it means is that she doesn’t actually think she’s a separate person from me some days. This explains SO much, especially the recent high pitched “Mummyyyyy” shrieking if anyone so much as looks like they want to pick her up.
I had thought it was because we were travelling and she might have felt slightly unsettled or insecure. Now I know its because she thinks an organ is being ripped from her body if she’s not attached to me in some fashion. This is something that going back to school will not solve for her, as she doesn’t even go out of the house some days.
Which brings me to my dilemma. Unlike her older seven-year-old sister who was in daycare in New Zealand twice a week from a similar age, our toddler hasn’t started any sort of playschool. Part of this is circumstantial (I have help in Shanghai so I don’t need her out of the house whilst I work), but I do also want to find something for her soon as I think she should be socialized, or at least given the same level of exposure her sister had. Yeap, parenting guilt at its best... wanting everyone to have the same, if not similar, opportunities. Plus it will be seriously uncomfortable to have her attached to my hip until such time that she decides I’m no longer part of her body.
So I opened a Pandora’s box just asking around for playschool recommendations in the event I wanted our toddler to go somewhere. Some of my European friends were horrified I would even consider putting her anywhere other than home when she was ‘so young'. My Asian friends were amazed that I’d kept her with me for ‘so long’ and they were concerned she wasn’t getting the stimulation she’d need for intellectual and social development. This didn’t help my feelings of parental guilt.
Feeling flummoxed, I realized what I’d use the remainder of the summer for, instead of going slowly bananas in Week 6 (with 3 more to go). It should be kind of a ‘time out’ for me too! Yeah I know, summer is usually anything but a parenting ‘time out’ (unless the kids are in camp, with the grandparents, or sent to some other magical place where parents really do have a break).
Away from the rush of normal daily activities though, I’ve been able to observe each child a little more, access where they’re ‘at’ and generally get a good feel of how they’ve developed the past year. It’s allowed me to do a bit more research on the playschool thing and really think about which educational philosophies we subscribe to and why. In Shanghai, so much we’ve taken for granted no longer applies and now we’ve arrived at a position we’re comfortable with. So TGFS (Thank God For Summer) I guess? Now let's get back to school already!
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[Image Via Alkapool]