“Hey kids, that’s not Kellan’s grandma. It’s his MOM.”
Last week I had to attend a parent orientation for Kellan’s new preschool.
This is the first “real” preschool he’s been to, even though he’ll be in Kindergarten next year. I found that after having run the preschool gauntlet with my first three kids, I wasn’t as pressured/motivated to enroll Kellan in any sort of formal program. In fact, as soon after Larissa was born, I made the choice to enroll the two little ones in the school of life. My program was working pretty well until last Spring, when my friend Kristi sugggested that she and I both put Kellan and Ella in preschool this year. It was a great idea - until one half of this equation decided to up and move to Texas, leaving me here to hold the proverbial (book)bag.
Kellan went to a half-year, student-run preschool at our high-school last year, and he’s been cared for on a regular basis by a friend of ours who has homeschooled her two girls. These scenarios have done two things for Kellan: 1) given him increased one-on-one attention, which has accelerated his learning, and 2) given him increased one-on-one attention, which has accelerated his belief that the world runs on people who find him brilliant and adorable. Begrudgingly, I had to acknowledge that perhaps throwing my little fish into a bigger pond might be a wise move, lest I send a 5-year-old with a God complex into the public school system next year.
The orientation was what I expected it to be - a group of over-eager, hyper-anxious parents perched in child-sized chairs, their eyes rabidly scanning the room as they crossed things off their mental checklist: outlet covers - yes! a “word wall” - fantastic! multi-cultural dolls - hallelujah! a gender-neutral imaginative play area - bravo! They were a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed bunch, and as we began the introductions, I soon understood why. As the teachers went around the circle to each parent(s), I realized with growing horror that only one or two of them had a child older than 6 in their household. More terrifying, it seemed that the majority were here representing their oldest child. And, if matters could be made any worse, one of the questions we were to answer was, “Why did you pick this preschool for your child?”
Each eager parent was flush with excitement as they regaled the group with their journeys of research (both online AND in person!) and emotion. ”I just *felt* it in my heart that this was the place when I walked in and saw the room,” one mother swooned. ”My husband and I visited over 15 preschools before deciding on this one,” another mother said. After proclaiming this, she lifted her chin to the crowd, as if we were all going to clap or something. My personal favorite was the mom who shared, “I’ve been doing a Montessori program with Colton in our home since birth, so I wanted to make sure that his preschool supported this experience.” I actually had to whiplash my head forward and stare furtively at my shoes so that my wild eyerolling would not be apparent.
Of course, I was the last person in the circle, so when it came time to introduce myself, I had a brief moment where I thought,” This is the part where you lie.” Instead, I sucked it up and admitted, with all the fortitude of an addict at their first AA meeting, that my child was the fourth of five, and that I was the parent of a child born in a year beginning with “19.” I’m not kidding, the group audibly gasped. Fortunately, they were so fixated on this stunning revelation that I managed to avoid having to address the “how did you choose this school” question altogether. I don’t think this group could have handled the truth, anyway.
It was hard not to judge this group of earnest young parents. Really hard. I mean, it went against every sarcastic bone in my body. But when I stopped to think about it, I did manage to recall a few faint memories of the mother I was 10 years ago, when Hayden was entering preschool. I was the same as they were: naive and anxious and even more importantly, struggling hard to justify all the reasons why, after being college educated, thin, ambitious, and independent, I was frumpy, disoriented, and completely unfamiliar with the person I saw in the mirror. I prided myself on my “attachment parenting” and co-sleeping and Hayden’s early enrollment in a great preschool. I was kind of like Marcia Brady back then, trying to get on board with everything just to validate my own existence.
Those first few years are hard, so hard that you kind of forget them altogether. So hard that it makes you uncomfortable when you see how you must have looked back then, now looking through the lens of experience and time. It would have been nice to stand up and say, “Stop yourselves. All of this doesn’t matter. Clearly you think the world of your children. Believe in that and don’t waste so much time trying to prove it to the world. And P.S. - a few hours of Nick Jr. will NOT kill the kid.” But of course, that’s part of the journey - finding things out the hard way. Instead of raining on their parade, this old dinosaur is just going to park it on the curb and enjoy
Tags: starting preschool