I have one of those Babycenter accounts. It started with my last pregnancy, when I was obsessively tracking every day of my little embryo’s development. When I became pregnant again, I logged back into my account to update my new pregnancy. I occasionally like to peak on there to see what fruit my developing child most closely resembles.
I logged on today and was greeted with the usual updates. The site divides my information into two categories, “Your Pregnancy, 17 weeks,” and “Your Child, 26 months old.” I clicked on the link for my 26-month-old, and to my surprise he was described as a preschooler: “Your 2-Year-Old Now: Preschoolers bite when they’re mad or feel threatened, usually because they’re having trouble communicating their feelings. Actions speak louder than words, so … chomp!” Huh? When did two-year-olds become preschoolers? This is really stressing me out.
I never attended preschool, but when I was a child preschool was the place kids went the year before they went to kindergarten – you know, around age four. Now, it seems like every new mom is thinking about preschool waiting lists before their child can crawl. Maybe it’s just new moms in Brooklyn – this is the only reference point I have.
When my son was around one, I was on a play date with some moms in the neighborhood. One had an 11month old and one had a 16 month old. They were both discussing the essays they were completing to get their children on the waiting list for the “most competitive preschool in the neighborhood.” They both wanted their children to be attending preschool by the time they were two. I was confused. Mostly by the words “competitive” and “preschool” being strung together – but also by the age at which they thought sending their child to “school” was necessary.
“You want to send your two-year old somewhere to interact with other children? That’s not preschool. That’s daycare.” I said.
“No, it’s preschool. They also have a daycare, but we’re applying for preschool,” one of the moms said. I wondered what the difference could possibly be, but decided to keep my mouth shut.
I guess I think of “school” as a place with a lot of instruction and guidance, and “daycare” as a place where kids can just exist as kids. Play, touch things, pee in a diaper, nap. Maybe there really is no difference between the two – maybe these institutions just got hip to the fact that parents felt more accomplished sending their toddlers to “preschool” instead of “daycare,” and decided to rename it. I don’t know. All I know is, don’t call my two-year-old a preschooler. I don’t have time to write an essay trying to get him into the most “competitive” place to eat peanut butter and crackers in the neighborhood – nor can I afford it.