Next Fall, my sweet girl will start Pre-K. (Our at least that’s our current plan.) In New York, there’s a Universal Pre-K program, which is a great blessing since it’s free, but the idea also brings with it a whole set of baggage for a mommy like me. And see, I didn’t even know this about myself until last week when I toured my first Pre-K program.
So the evening went like this – Principal talked and had me at “fantabulous.” No really, she used this word twice, and I didn’t know whether to be thrilled about the use of this made-up word I love or uneasy about the level of education at this school. I decided to go with the former. It just felt right to me.
But honestly, I loved the school and their philosophy for education. (I realized this would probably happen and was one reason I was hesitant to attend any Pre-K tours. Because this school has ten spots and hundreds of applicants, I know our odds aren’t good so I didn’t want to go and fall in love and get my hopes up for something left to “chance.” Fortunately, though, I know that nothing is chance, not even a lottery system, because I believe God is sovereign over all things. So I can love this school and hold it loosely at the same time, trusting that God knows better than I where Fairley should be next year.)
Back to my experience that night – we heard from a few more presenters, and I was still totally in line with what and how they teach, and I felt like this could be a good place for Fairley to grow and learn.
Then – we took the tour of the school. A little small and didn’t have tons of frills, yes. But I was still on board and excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for Fairley. Until we walked into the classroom. And then all the thoughts and feelings flooded in. And for the next forty five minutes, there I was, touring a school, trying to listen to the guide, but fighting back tears all the while. And processing so much.
See, earlier in the presentation, the principal mentioned how important it was that we be informed about this choice (ironic seeing as how it’s a lottery, but I digress) for our children’s education because soon, for the first time for many of us, our child would be spending more time during the week in this school and with this teacher than they would with us, their parents.
Big deal! I always knew that. I was a kindergarten teacher. I received many a precious, wide-eyed little child who hadn’t been away from mom for whole days at a time. And we made it! But see, the realization that this would soon be happening to me and my first born – Oh no, it still brings me to tears!
So there I was, touring the school, holding in my tears, and processing. What are all these changes we’re about to face? How can I prepare us both? What’s the good? What’s the hard? And this, my friends, is what I came up with and continue to process as we continue to pray about Fairley’s schooling for next year.
- If she does start a full day program, our every day life will change. A lot. See, she and J.D. are just getting to that stage where they can (kind of) play together. They truly do have the sweetest little friendship blossoming. I imagine they will only continue to learn to play together more between now and school starting next year. So having Fair gone during the day will definitely feel different. It will change our schedule. We won’t be attending dance class or play dates with her friends. (But, on the flip side, J.D. will get two years where we can do those things for him for once, so that’s a positive thought.)
- So the time that we do have left now is precious. I know she’ll still be my daughter, and we’ll still have nights, weekends, holidays, summer, etc. but it still makes me stop and think about how intentional I want to be with the time that we do have now. I have been extremely blessed to be able to stay home with my kids during these early years, but sometimes, I think that I forget that quantity of time does not equal quality. So yes, we’re together a lot, but I want to examine how I use my time and make sure that I’m spending quality time with each child, and not just being in the same room with them while they play and I multi-task one million other things. I’m praying that God would help me find more times to stop and play (even if the dishes are dirty) and that I would resist the urge to get absorbed into another world (Social media, anyone?) during the time that my kids and I could be playing or talking.
- Our whole world will expand. Fairley will make new friends. Hopefully, she will be exposed to the world of diversity which God has created. I will make new friends (hopefully) as I get to know the parents in her class. Again, this is amazing to me. I think it’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time. We are blessed to have great Christian community, so we often spend time with people who think and feel similarly to us. As much as I love this, am thankful for this, and need this, I also need to push outside my comfort zone and make friends with those who might not yet know Jesus, and who, in turn, will probably not think so similarly to me in some ways. The thought of this would be an answer to prayer (because I often pray that I could meet non-believers and be on mission to share God’s love with others) but it also feels scary because being outside of your comfort zone is, well, uncomfortable. And I, for one, am a fan of comfort. But I’m a fan of following and trusting God more, so here I stand, ready to follow him wherever he leads us in this next year.
- Finally, this will be my first time where Fairley is out of my care (for more than two hours at a time and/or with someone other than a grandparent or dear friend), less sheltered by me, and more influenced by the world than ever before. It seems to be the beginning of something new. And it is. Because, as a good friend once told me, “All of parenting is letting go.” It’s my job to help in the formation of a fully independent adult, and it starts with baby steps such as Pre-K. Basically, the point of parenting is to slowly work myself out of a job. And that brings all sorts of love/hate ideas into my mind. I love the idea of seeing Fairley grow and change and become a young woman who loves God and contributes to his mission in the world (well, that’s my prayer, at least), but I hate the idea that she’ll need me less and less. But isn’t that the point of parenthood?
One last realization that I had about Pre-K in general (or at least most of the options offered by UPK in NYC), is that they are very full-day programs. 8 AM-3 PM, Monday-Friday. Honestly, if we lived somewhere else with other (affordable) preschool options, Fairley would not be starting a full-day program next year because 1) we probably couldn’t afford it/wouldn’t need that much time, and 2) it’s a long day/week for a four year-old. However, I have to remind myself that this is where God has provided for us to live, and this is an option that he is providing for us to explore. Fairley is beyond thrilled at the idea of starting school, and so this is the option we will pursue for now. We’ll continue to gather information, tour schools, ask questions, fill out lottery applications, but most of all, we’ll continue to trust God that he will lead us and make it clear where Fairley should be next year. And if we decide that means she needs to stay home one more year, you won’t hear any complaining from this teary-eyed mama.