Back when I was a teacher, young and childless, few things annoyed me more than the parents who assumed that one tiny negative event would scar their children for life.
Now, as a mother myself, I continue to maintain the belief that any small day-to-day misfortune is unlikely to scar a child for life.
But I still find myself worrying a lot about how my daily parenting decisions might ruin my kid.
While new examples of this worry happen every minute, let me share one major one from the recent annals of my daily life.
So, you all know I talk a big game when it comes to not being worried about my kid's education, but the reality is that I can't help but be a little bit concerned when I think about the big looming date we have with The System when Nathan starts kindergarten in the fall.
The concern is so strong that I find myself clicking on any link that relates to "Kindergarten Readiness," even links on my beloved Pinterest, which is supposed to be a fun distraction where I look at kitties and recipes. Then I get upset because I can't figure out whether or not my kid exhibits some of the 75 skills/habits/behaviors that some random blogger believes encompass kindergarten readiness. (Seriously, "Works well with others"? I mean, you know, sometimes.)
But I digress. The particular salient point for this post is that recently Nathan's preschool advertised an upcoming after-school supplemental program called "Reading Ready and Math Smarts."
When I first found out about the program, I was totally jazzed. Finally, a way to outsource my kid's kindergarten preparation, and get two and a half extra hours of kid-free time three days a week.
See, I had been promised a fairly large freelance project, and so the timing of this new extended-day preschool could not have been better when it came to childcare needs. I crunched the numbers on the new after-school program, and it worked out to about $3 per hour. Score.
Except, I knew my kid would hate it. He already whines and grumbles about having to go to school, and he says the regular three-hour school day is too long. An obvious retort here would be something like, "Get used to it, Kid," because he's about 6 months away from our local public school system's not-quite-full-day kindergarten. Shouldn't I be pushing him to get used to a longer school day, to prepare him for kindergarten? OMG, OMG, what should I do?!
I decided to defer to an age-old decision-making tactic, Finding Out What Everybody Else is Doing. It turned out that most of the parents at Nathan's school were opting out of the after-school program, for reasons such as the additional cost, the fact that they already hate the preschool and aren't willing to pay money for more of it, or a conflict with a younger sibling's naptime.
So then I was looking at a situation where most of the kids would still go home at noon with their parents, while just a few kids would be forced to stay at school. And Nathan has historically gotten quite upset when other kids got picked up and he didn't. (The two examples that come to mind are the one week where I signed him up for the longer day at day camp, and one time when I was a few minutes later than the other parents picking him up at science class.)
But I was still thinking that the class would be helpful in terms of academic preparation, so I was considering it.
(And before anybody suggests that maybe I could just do a few workbooks with him at home to get him prepared for kindergarten, let me just say that in our particular mother-child relationship dynamic, me teaching him doesn't usually work out. Homeschoolers we are not.)
I decided to await word on my freelance job to help me make the decision about the after-school program. If I had paying work to get done, sending Nathan to school for an extended day was an obvious childcare solution, and he would just have to suck it up and deal with it. But of course things are seldomly timed that perfectly, and soon it was the day before the after-school program started and I hadn't heard anything about my freelance work.
I was feeling more and more uneasy about the idea of Nathan watching most of his classmates get picked up while he and a tiny handful of others had to stay at school for a few more hours. I envisioned future school mornings where the task of getting him out the door was made all the more challenging because of his dread of going to school for an extended day. And I wondered why I was considering paying for all this torture, while I wasn't even earning back any of the tuition while Nathan was at school.
In the end, I waited until late afternoon the day before the class, and finally decided that since I was getting such a bad feeling about the class, I wouldn't sign Nathan up for it. Still, the rest of the afternoon I agonized over my decision.
I made fellow moms at the park listen to my pointless concerns. They were pretty much split between the opinions of, "Kids need an extended day at preschool or they won't be prepared for the kindergarten day," and, "They'll learn to deal with the kindergarten day when they're in kindergarten." Which were basically my two conflicting trains of thought as well.
Of course I'm still worried that I made the wrong choice when it comes to his kindergarten preparation. I know he won't be scarred for life, but, you know, I still kind of worry that he will be.
The thing is, I'm of the mindset that it might be better for my kid to transition to kindergarten when he's thrust into kindergarten for real. You know, the whole cross that bridge when we come to it mentality? There's really no way to artificially create the kindergarten environment in the context of preschool anyway, so there will always be a fairly significant level of transition involved in starting kindergarten. Thinking that a preschool program would prepare him for kindergarten would be like thinking a high school senior could prepare to go away to college by spending a few nights a week staying in a hotel. Some things you just can't prepare for.