Last month I went to pick up my ten-year-old daughter who was swimming with friends at a local pool and came across a preschool “graduation” party. They looked so little to me – it was hard to believe they would be kindergartners in September. The teacher recognized my daughter’s friends as former students at her school. I confirmed that yes, they had gone to that preschool but my daughter had not.
“She did go to preschool though; she is a preschool graduate,” I quickly assured her. The absurdity of my response struck me, as if my daughter’s pedigree was in question.
Now I’m at another transitional education point – my eldest child will apply to college in the fall. This time there are three adults (I know – it’s generous to call a 17-year-old an adult) involved in this decision, not two. We hope we have instilled in our son the ability to allow his life to unfold organically. I guess we’re about to find out if he will apply similar criteria to the college search that we did for the preschool search:
1) Is it a place where my child will be safe and happy?
2) Will he have a variety of learning opportunities, both academic and social?
Beyond that, I am not sweating the small stuff and fortunately neither is he, at least so far. I am confident that he will get into one of the 3,500 colleges and universities in this country. He is a great kid with a “resume” that reflects his interests, capabilities and growth. He has an idea of the kind of place he’d like to attend, and we support him wholeheartedly.
“Remember the crib,” my husband and I remind each other.
When we were shopping for a crib before our first child was born, we looked at many cribs in an enormous baby store until our eyes glazed over. They were all nice and would all do the job. Do we buy the super expensive most beautiful crib or the functional, practical one? We settled on the latter. We realized once we got it home that we didn’t remember what any of those other cribs looked like. What made our crib adorable was the baby in it.
We apply the crib theory to most decisions in our lives: don’t agonize, go with your gut feeling, and trust your inner voice. We’ve found you don’t need to treat every decision as if it’s a high-stakes, win-lose situation. Generally, things turn out the way they are supposed to.
My children are all preschool graduates, from a few different “schools.” They don’t remember their preschool years, but I do. As long as they were in a place where they were safe and happy, that was fine with me. The fanciest, most prestigious, most expensive schools were not the criteria we used to pick preschools. Location and a good vibe was what we were looking for.
“I thought you sent me to school to learn,” I told my mother when I sent my first child to preschool, “but it’s the best child-care ever!”
It was an epiphany for me. I was not the mother weeping when her two-year-old went off to class for three hours, twice a week. I was the one skipping happily out of the building to savor a few hours of freedom.
College will be a different experience, but maybe not so different. Yes, he will study and learn. And he will put into practice the lessons he learned in preschool like how to use his words, how to share, and how to keep his hands to himself (hopefully.) He will start out in a dorm with people looking out for him. Something tells me I won’t be skipping away when we drop him off. What a difference a few years makes.
I try to keep it all in perspective – a happy and independent adult is the goal, however he gets there.