Four years ago, I was pregnant for the first time. I had no idea what to expect. I was mainly concerned with getting through labor and setting up the crib without hurting myself (I did hurt myself. But that’s a different story.) I hadn’t yet started researching baby sleep patterns or worrying about first foods. I hadn’t even thought about weaning or potty training. And I definitely wasn’t considering schools.
Now all of this sudden, my son is starting preschool this fall! I know, I know. It’s just preschool, right? But let me tell you, I already feel clueless about this next stage of life. The only reason I even got him into the preschool I wanted was because another mom asked me if I had enrolled him yet…in March. I had zero idea you had to enroll for preschool that early. For real. I was planning to wait until July. Or August.
Before you think I’m just super out of the loop, let me explain. Besides a few Spanish classes and one random semester of college, I was home schooled my whole life. The only time I ever stepped foot in a public high school was for my SAT test. I have zero grid for what school is like, let alone how to navigate it as a parent.
So even though it’s just preschool, to me it feels like a huge step. A big, new, terrifying phase of life. What if I don’t know how to support my kids through their school experiences? What if I forget to show up to events? (I already forgot the spring event that new students are invited to attend. Oops.) What if I don’t send them lunch when I am supposed to, or I do send them lunch and I’m not supposed to?
Up until now, mom life has been pretty flexible. We go to the library when we want to, we shift nap times if we need to, and we pretty much just do whatever we want during waking hours.
Which, currently, is mostly playing Go Fish. So. Much. Go Fish. Now, suddenly, I’ll have a schedule to keep. Two days a week, (yes, only two, and yes, I’m still freaking out) I’ll have to have a small child up, dressed, fed, and delivered somewhere by 9am.
Will it be worth it? Yes. My son is super social and loves learning. He’s already excited to be a “school kid.” He asks every day when he can go to preschool. He is also convinced that the teacher is going to teach him to fly and be a super hero. Sorry, teacher. I promise I didn’t tell him that.
Am I nervous? Also yes. But not for him. I’m nervous for me. I keep imagining that I’ll forget the first day. Or that I’ll accidentally send him in with something that’s not allowed. Or that I’ll forget to fill out some paperwork. Or that he’ll be the only kid who doesn’t know whatever it is that he’s supposed to know, that I don’t know he’s supposed to know. You know?
Really though, if I take a step back, it’s not all that different than the unknowns of every new stage of life as a parent. When he was a baby, I worried about messing up his sleep or food. When he started walking, I worried that I would forget to baby proof the one thing that he would wind up getting hurt on. When he started talking, I worried that I would forget to censor myself around him and that he’d repeat something I didn’t want him to. (That last one for sure happened.)
I think all of us, no matter what our life experience, worry about messing something up for our kids. For me it’s school. For you it might be something else. Every parent I’ve ever met is nervous about their ability to parent well. We all want to prepare our kids for life in the real world one day. We all want to make sure they have the tools they need to succeed. It’s part of what makes us good parents.
So, if you happen to see a super disoriented mother this year at preschool, feel free to help her out with some directions or advice. She might just be over-caffeinated, under-prepared, and doing the best she can for her kids.
Oh, and if your child comes home disappointed that they didn’t learn to fly at school, I got your back. That’s one conversation I actually feel pretty prepared for.