Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pre School

I registered Kylie for Head Start today.  When I became a mother, I never had any intention of putting any of my kids in preschool of any kind.  I chose to be a stay-at-home mom so that I could teach them, so that I could play with them and watch them grow.  But when we were living in California and planning to put our oldest (still very, very shy) child in all day, dual immersion Spanish Kindergarten, it seemed like too much to ask of her to go from being at home with me all day to being with strangers speaking a foreign language all day, so we gave her that almost-3-hours a day transitional stepping stone.  After watching Keilana enjoy it so much, Dylan really wanted to go, and though I didn't have the same concerns with Dylan as I'd had with his sister, we figured that with some of his unique language challenges, interpersonal habits, and difficulties with changes in order or routine, the socialization and structure might be good for him.  And it was.

Then we got to Kylie.  She is bright and social and precocious.  While she can be shy at first, it never lasts long, and she spends a lot of time with friends and cousins.  Kindergarten would be in English, a breeze.  I saw no reason for her to go to pre-school.  But I will be in school three days a week next fall, and while two of those days I will only be gone for afternoons, the schedule for half-day preschool works out just weirdly enough that doing half-day would be quite a headache, logistically.  So she is going to be in school from 9:30-3:30 Monday through Friday.  Part of me was just dreading that.

I only get 5 years.  Five years, where they're all mine.  I get to spend all my time playing with them, reading with them, telling stories, dancing, playing dress up, going on little adventures when the weather is good.  Five years where I get to be the single biggest influence in their lives, before they start spending 35 hours a week with other people.  So far, I've been grateful that as my older ones have reached that stage, they have found good friends and had wonderful teachers and coaches, and I hope that stays the case as they get older.  But that time goes by so fast, and the world creeps into our bubble so quickly, I am loathe to give it up any sooner than I have to (and, yes, I realize I don't have to at school age, but for the time being I'm still convinced that public school, and not homeschool, is the right choice for our family.  That could change, but it is what it is right now).  I'm OK with my babies growing up and becoming kids and my kids growing up and becoming teenagers, and I don't think anyone could credibly accuse me of hampering my kids' independence.  (And if you met my children, you'd see that, even if someone were consciously trying, it would be hard to make them anything but independent in most ways).  But I'm also in no great rush to hurry it along any.  Childhood is short.  There's lots of time to be out in the world, negotiating its joys and pitfalls.  There's a lot of time to enjoy the increasing independence and self-sufficiency of my kids.  There's not a lot of time to enjoy mid-morning snuggles and afternoon dance sessions and trips to the park.  I'm in no hurry to be done with that stage of parenting.  There are a lot of things about the babies and toddlers stage of parenting that is difficult and exhausting, but I love it.  I love my babies and little ones.  Doug pointed out the other day that, theoretically, we are half-way "done" with our time with Keilana at home.  She turns 9 this summer, and graduates from high school in 9 years.  It made my heart leap into my throat.

But taking Kylie to preschool and watching her light up over and over again at all the different parts of her classroom (the play kitchen! the garden center! the "reading deck"! it was all so exciting) made me feel better.  Meeting some of the wonderful women who would be her teachers and administrators made me feel even better.  She's going to be in good hands, and she will be happy.

But I came home feeling even more grateful that I'll only be away from Keira about 15 hours a week.  I feel very strongly that I'm making the right choice for my family as well as for myself, but I am constantly reminded, by how quickly the days and years with my kids fly by, that nothing is more valuable to me than time.

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