Last week, my 16 month old son started attending "structured play group," a prelude to preschool. Three mornings a week, we walk across the street and take the lift one floor up to a small room where up to half a dozen children about 2 years old are left in the care of three very competent teachers.
Nannies and parents wait outside the play area as classes are only an hour and a half long, and snack time takes place midway through, during which time they need to assist their respective charges.
Most of the children who attend these classes live in our condominium complex, as does the owner herself, who has a son just five months older than mine. Little A seems to be the youngest in the class, and it shows in the way he flings himself about with total abandon and doesn't sit still or follow along with the structured activities like the hello and goodbye songs and the prayer before meals.
My main goals in enrolling him in these classes are: 1) to get him used to interacting with other caregivers (and children, of course), 2) to expend his morning energy while hopefully learning new skills and honing others, and 3) to move forward in what is turning into a long and seemingly impossible weaning process.
So far, things seem to be going well. The first day, he was challenged by the new environment and enjoyed having other children around him. From time to time, he wanted me to come into the play area so that he could show me around, or just have me nearby as a comforting presence. Other nannies were in there too with their charges, and there was one boy who was 21 months old and absolutely refused to leave his father's side, nor have his father even stand up to make a telephone call.
Seeing this boy made me realize that Little A's separation anxiety issues were nowhere near as serious as I'd thought. My son runs into the play area willingly and only looks for me 10-15 minutes later. Once he gets his cuddle or has me near him for a minute or two, he busies himself with another activity and doesn't notice or mind my leaving the play area again.
The second day, we started attending the mid-morning "class" as it was more convenient for both his wake-up time and my morning routine. However, he was borderline sleepy this time, and as there were only 2 other kids (and therefore less distractions?) he insisted I stay in the play area most of the time and interacted with me more than his teachers. He tried to nurse a few times, but was didn't really complain when I prevented him from doing so.
This morning I only had to enter the play area once, for about two minutes. He took my hand and led me to the toys, and once distracted, I stepped out and let the teachers do their work. During snack time I sat behind instead of next to him, and only intervened to give him a drink of water. He still didn't follow instructions during the movement activities, but neither did he look for me again, nor try to nurse at all. At the end of the session, I had to pick him up and take him home or else he would have continued to play through the teachers' lunch hour.
Almost immediately after each morning session, he sleeps. For these three mornings, at least, partial weaning has been accomplished. Hooray! While I realize these "achievements" are only baby steps, they are a good start. There may be some backward slides, but on the whole there's nowhere else to go but forward.