June 3, 2005

Note To Preschool PR Directors: You Don't Want To Expel The Angry Writer's Kid

The day that Yale report on off-the-charts preschool expulsions came out, author/dad Neal Pollack and his wife got the call from their kid's school that they needed a meeting. The 2-year-old just got the boot from the school, and now they're stuck without any childcare for at least the summer.

How do I know this? Pollack writes about it in painful, naked detail in Salon. Says DT reader Anna, who spotted it, "I gotta admitÖthough I hate to pooh-pooh writers being honest about negative experiences raising a child, he does come off like an asshole."

Meanwhile, when I read it, even though the kid is practically an angel compared to Pollack's, I can totally imagine how they feel, and have almost nothing but empathy for people who are struggling to manage to work (at home in both their cases) and raise a kid, and who have been put through the wringer by what is (increasingly, obviously--to me, anyway) an unbalanced, mis-oriented, and deeply flawed childcare/education/work environment in this country.

The truth, such as it is, probably lies somewhere between Anna's and my views.

When Toddlers Get Fired [salon]
[update] Before dumping on Pollack, read through the Salon reader letters defending him from those who already did (but whose original angry letters I can't find on the site. link, anyone? are here. Thanks, Chris.) [salon]
Previously: FLASH: National Preschool Hoodlu Epidemic
Followup: Preschool Expulsions: Maybe It's Not Those Damn Kids

Commiserate with Pollack by buying his hilarious The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature [amazon]



Are you just being honest or stupid? Why did you have a child? Caring for your child is a life time job whether or not he/she is in preschool, has a nanny, or is at home with you. This article made me ticked at you, I can only imagine how the boy feels.

"But now we've been forced into the challenge of caring for a smart, stubborn, high-strung 2-year-old. We love him very much, but that's not the kind of work either of us wants, at least not full time."

PS ... If you really watched Supernany, you'd know that yelling at your child "I've had it with your goddamn biting!" is not the way to help him.

Bite me Neal.

I too have to wonder why they had a child. Did they think kids came out ready to go to college, polite, respectful, and neat? You have to work at it. I had an active little boy who did NOT get put in preschool for five hours a day at the age of two! What are people thinking? They had the child - they are responsible for raising him, not two teachers at a preschool. If they can't stand to be around him, give him up for adoption to people who really want him. I can guarantee you that their attitude towards Elijah is something that that smart little boy is picking up on. He knows he's not wanted. Look at how he behaves when he gets one on one attention - in time out! I feel sorry for Elijah for many, many reasons, but most of all because his parents are unable to take responsibility for their own actions and the life they created and they want to blame society, the educational system, and whoever else they can think of instead of putting the time and hard work into child-rearing that real parents know is necessary. BTW - working, non-Christian mom here. I have a child with REAL difficulties - severe dyslexia and CAPD. Guess if Neal ever had to cope with THAT his whiny complaints would be plastered across the front pages of all the newspapers in America.

Awesome, people can be as quick and as harsh to judge here as on Urbanbaby. And able to cite such authoritative references as nonsensical reality TV shows to back themselves up.

I don't know Neal and his wife, and I don't know their daycare/preschool, but I posted this for a couple of reasons that seem to be totally lost on people so far.

No doubt Neal's anguished, somewhat self-pitying tone makes it easier to dismiss him so quickly. But for one thing, such driveby judgments of someone else's parent/kid situation are inevitably going to be based on incomplete information and usually serve to justify and reinforce your own parenting choices at the expense of others. That's a lame-ass, selfish, shortsighted thing to do.

Did I get checked out and gossiped about by a couple of UWS moms for 1) taking my kid to McD's, 2) feeding her from my yogurt cone, 3) at night, and 4) without shoes? Yes. Did they know I recognized my ghetto situation but that, after three days of soloing with the kid, living entirely on her schedule while work piled up around me, I just didn't care? I highly doubt it.

Another major reason I posted this was because it's the flipside, a parent's perspective of the report that Yale just published about preschools, which is an experience that hasn't been heard much yet.

We've just started looking at some part-time childcare and school options for the kid, partly because we think it'll be very good for her, partly because, frankly, we need to get some time back ourselves. So yes, I'm in part justifying my own decisions and situation when I write about Pollack's, but I hope I'm learning and adapting from other people's experience, not just aping or dumping them.

Lastly, I think the harsh "why'd you have a kid?" "you don't love your kid??" comments are about the lowest, meanest thing anyone can say. Read closely what Pollack wrote; he identifies and empathizes with his son and his behavioral problems, he worries at length about the challenges he's gonna face growing up with possibly similar chemical imbalances... he realizes it's a long, hard road for all of them and he says so. Is he wrong or just refusing to sugarcoat things and be in denial? Look at the timestamp, too; this is all happening right now; if he was some blogger, writing about his problems and setbacks in realtime, would his comments be full of people harshing on him and telling him he's a bad parent, why'd he even have a kid in the first place? Damn, people.

[update: after reading even one of the first six pages of letters this article provoked, I have to say, I agree with them. Too. The Pollack's situation is certainly unenviable, but I'm sure it's not unique. I found myself identifying with various of their thoughts and worries, if not their experiences. So there's a difference of degree, perhaps, with the challenges they and all parents face, but there's ultimately the difference of writing: we know about the Pollack's situation because he wrote about it, in near-realtime. For some reason, in a blog-happy, media-saturated world, that still unsettles a lot of people, me included. Damn, Greg.]

Six pages of people agreeing with your two correspondents, and going even further -- no one here has advocated a good spanking yet.

I think it was a poorly judged piece and his self-absorption obscured the point he was trying to make. The fact that his wife referred to the kid as a "little shit" and then had that taken out of the Salon piece (I read it the first day) not because it was untrue but because it made them look bad says it all for me.

[interesting. I wondered what that deletion was. -ed.]

Oops, forgot the link to the first batch of letters at Salon.

Find someone not Neal Pollack to write about this problem, Greg. The guy's a twit -- he rode his fake comedy persona for a bit, but it was too hard, and it wasn't selling well, and now I get to hear his "true" thoughts about everything. Expecting a daycare facility to deal with extreme 2 year old behavior doesn't seem reasonable to me.

a crappy situation indeed, but I'm sorry, biting other kids is never "totally excusable."

I feel for the Pollacks but I have two big problems with Neal Pollack's assertion that no child should get kicked out of preschool. First of all, if my child was in that class, I would have insisted that the school do something to ensure her safety. She and the other children that Elijah attacked are the victims here - not the Pollacks.

Second of all, preschool is not guaranteed to everyone. If Elijah is too immature to share toys and deal with other children safely, he shouldn't be in preschool right now. That might be inconvenient to the Pollacks but everyone with kids makes sacrifices. Hopefully, with some guidance from his parents and other people that love him, Elijah will grow out of this phase and will be ready to join a classroom next year.

Thanks for the explanation of what was deleted and the link to the "angry" letters. I couldn't find them either.

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