It was the first day of taking my first-born to his new pre-K program. He has always been anxious in new environments and so, I, Super-Mom, had formulated a plan of action. I had spent the last week pumping up the new experience – “You are going to meet so many new friends!”, “They have a computer lab at your new school!”, “You are so lucky, I wish I could go too!” I had also succumbed to some subtle bribery – “After I pick you up on your first day, you and Mommy will go for a coffee and donut date!” And yet, the morning had still, predictably, been full of tears on his part and incessant soothing words on my part. It was 8:30AM and I was already worn out. All I wanted was to crawl back into bed with my 2-year old for a nap!
My mental pick-me-up was the fact that I had chosen an amazing, highly recommended program; one with a structured academic curriculum (because he thrives in structure), well-trained teachers (he better be reading this year!), and a large school environment. After all, he needed to be readied for big, bad elementary school next year. And the beauty of the plan was the fact that the school came with a hefty price tag – that was my insurance that I had, indeed, picked the right place for my precious son. I knew that after experiencing his first day, it would be smooth sailing, because that is just how he dealt with new experiences.
Imagine my surprise, when walking in the door, no one seemed to know it was my son’s first day. There was nothing special to greet him. When we walked into the classroom, there was no cubby set up, no name on the birthday board. Sure, he was starting after the beginning of the year, but surely, everyone knows the importance of making a first day special for a 4-year old?! And with the price I was paying, I would think that the administration in this program would have processes in place to ensure that teachers are made aware of new students starting in their class. The teacher was visibly taken aback when we entered. She made a smooth comeback and welcomed us graciously, but not before I had noticed her hesitations.
Since then, I have been that teacher, that administrator – I can empathize better with what goes on behind-the-scenes. But first, I am that parent. Parenting is no walk in the park. We all deal with situations like this everywhere we find ourselves. Disappointments, misguided and misplaced advice, and sometimes even disregard. However, we do also encounter genuine people; people who care and try to help us along. The adage “It takes a village to raise a child” may not apply in the manner it used to in the days of small communities filled with family members – after all, we live in the Bay area where everyone is living a rushed life and working hard to afford quality in said life. We try to provide our children with crème de la crème experiences to get them into those Ivy leagues so they can have that “better life” – that one, lofty goal that brings together our parenting experiences.
We may feel Pinterest-shamed at a class party, or kick ourselves for forgetting water-play day. However, we all need a village. With this blog, I am hoping to be a voice of reason, backed by personal experiences and professional education. And hopefully, sometimes, a healthy dose of sarcasm and humor.
Reality can suck – our first day in Pre-K was more disheartening for me than for my son. He came home full of excitement in his big eyes and incessant chatter about his teacher and friends. I knew him and knew what to expect for him, but I didn’t know that price tags didn’t guarantee care. While I hmmm-hmm’d and smiled at his stories, my mind swirled with doubts of whether my decision that stretched our wallet was indeed, sound, after all the missteps I perceived that day.
If the village I have today, had been around me that day, I may have shared my doubts and be handed a glass of wine and told, “Just roll with it – it’ll be ok.” Maybe someone would have shared a similar story and told me that I shouldn’t judge education by one isolated day, even if it is the first. Had those things happened, I may have been spared weeks of anxiety and the necessity of keeping my eyes WIDE open at every drop-off. Because truth told, I HAD made a good decision. It shouldn’t have been a shoe-in because of the price tag, but rather because of the intelligent research I had put in and the Mom-feeling I had. My village would have illuminated those things for me.
Let’s build your village. If I can bring my insights and experience to help you in that, I will. Know that we are all in this parenting thing together. I may be an educational professional, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have weak moments, times when I’m over-Pinterest-ed and just plain tired. Let’s talk, and in doing so, create a space that is judgement-free where we can provide sound advice laced with encouragement. You bring the wine, and I’ll bring the stories.