Saturday, February 16, 2013

Preschool Ponderings

With our sitter away on a business trip with her hubby this past week, Hubs and I got to spend some extra quality time with our little man (my mom did too, thanks Mom!). It worked out well for a couple of reasons: 1. Sweets was as sick as sick could be last week, and since we had already scheduled our days off in advance, neither of us had to worry about calling in to work to stay home with him, and 2. I'd been wanting to check out a local preschool for next year, and the best time to visit was on a weekday morning.

So on Thursday after breakfast, off we went for our first taste of formal education for little people. Overall, we were very pleased with the program - the classrooms were clean, organized, and bright, the lessons plans were posted in the hallway, the kids were energetic and happy and the teachers caring and  routined. So far, so good. As we watched Sweets follow along with the group, looking just a bit like a lost puppy dog, we remarked quietly to each other that we couldn't believe he was old enough for preschool. Seriously, where have the last two and a half years gone? The class sang the welcome song, they talked about the month and day of the week, they identified the weather, and they learned about the letter R, the color red, and rectangles. After some free play, it was time for snack. I totally did a double-take as I watched one of the teachers lay out the day's snack at each child's seat. Thickly-frosted sugar cookies and Little Hugs. At ten o'clock in the morning. Little Hugs, my arch nemesis because they contain everything I strive to avoid for my family: sugar, high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors, arguably some of the worst things you can put in your body, in my opinion.
The enemy.

Trying desperately to appear casual, I sidled up to the teacher as the kids took their places and chatted her up about snack time. I learned that snacks are provided on a rotating basis by parents, and on the inside, I was silently judging little Caitlin's mom who provided this "wholesome" snack as Sweets clung to my legs and chanted "I want a cookie, I want a cookie!" 

Hubs and I thanked the teacher for having us and beat a hasty retreat before I had to wrestle a Little Hug out of my son's hands. We drove to a nearby bakery and set Sweets up with a whole grain blueberry muffin while we debriefed over coffee. I told Hubs that even though we were both happy with the preschool program, the snack thing would bother me every single day. And it dawned on us: for the first time, we are going to be sending our child out into the world without us. We won't get to choose each meal and snack, or who he makes friends with, or protect him from rude people. It really freaked us out. We discussed our options around the snack issue, which as far as we could tell, amounted to two: send Sweets his own snack (but really not feasible, as I am not going to put the teacher in the position of having to deal with his meltdown when he is offered a bran muffin while the other kids get cookies) or buy all the snacks every week (not feasible either, from a monetary point of view). You can call me uptight if you want, I'm fine with it. But we believe wholeheartedly that you get out of your body what you put into it, and nutrition is too important not to care about. This is especially true for little ones - since they can be finicky eaters anyway, I truly believe that every bite counts. And don't get me wrong - we enjoy treats and dessert as much as the next person, heck, I made an entire batch of sugar cookies this week, but overall we aim for balance, with the healthier stuff winning out over the junk.

So, I'm going to look at another program next week. I already read their parent handbook online (score! they have an online handbook!) and noted that they have an entire section on snacks, and how they believe in helping children make healthy choices. Parents do provide snacks at this school as well, however, you must choose from the approved list (some examples: 100% fruit juice or milk, cheese and crackers, celery and peanut butter, muffins, fruit, veggies, etc.). We'll see how it goes! In the meantime, I'm off to go look at Sweets' baby pictures, sniff...

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