This time last year Betty went to a different pre-school to the one that she goes to now. At home she was a happy, confident child, who loved to make us laugh with her impersonations, comedy remarks, and theatrical antics - she was life and soul, and would never shut up.
However, I became so concerned about her increasing lack of enthusiasm and defiance about leaving the house in the mornings to go to pre-school (sometimes in tears), that I asked the play manager if I could secretly observe her to see if I could get to the bottom of things. I was shocked and upset to see a very timid, shy, and unconfident Betty - I didn't recognise her at all. It broke my heart.
I agonised for several weeks over what the problem might be, and what I should do. She was once happy to go, but now she was not. I thought perhaps it might be related to the birth of Dolly? Or maybe she was being picked on? Or she found it too noisy? Or she didn't like the decor? Or perhaps it was just her age and she would come out of it?
I spoke to the staff at the pre-school (who told me she was quiet, but happy), I spoke to family and friends, I spoke to fellow bloggers, I trawled different websites, looking for the right thing to do. Nobody could really give me answers, but the best piece of advice I received was to simply respect and listen to my child, and listen to my gut feeling. This wasn't rocket science, but these few words helped enormously, and the next day I nervously handed in our notice at this pre-school, knowing that with very limited places, it was highly unlikely I would ever get Betty back in if we were to change our minds. But as I walked away from there, I felt a sense of overwhelming relief (if a little bit anxious about having both her and Dolly at home with me 24/7).
Shortly after this, we found another pre-school, slightly further away, but immediately Betty fitted in, she was back to her recognisable self, and absolutely loved going. And fast forward one year, she was given the part of Mary in her first nativity play, and yesterday, she stood on the stage in front of a huge audience, totally unfazed, and belted out two songs with Joseph. This is something I would never have imagined her doing a year ago, when I peeped through the little square window of her old pre-school, and saw her sitting in the corner, too timid to speak during circle time, and looking a little bit sad.