August 17, 2007

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

I've got my hand on the spigot.

I am trying not to look at the calendar, but it's not helping. No matter what I do, our "baby" will be heading off to kindergarten in just a few weeks.

He'll be going to public school, in a district that is famously fabulous, and he's absolutely ready. He's been in care since he I went back to work when he was three, is social and funny, knows all his letters and the sounds they make, can do math problems in his head. And yet.

I feel like the biggest part of my job as a parent has been keeping my hand on the spigot of mainstream culture, trying to gauge how much "real world" I want in our boy's life. I find many aspects of mainstream culture problematic from a parent's standpoint, whether it's song lyrics (remind me to tell you about the fun we had explaining "suicidal" to our curious 5 year old, who overheard Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls" on the radio while not in our care), rampant consumerism, violence packaged as entertainment, or the idea that kids should eat "kid food" crammed with sugar. Parenting our son has been a daily exercise in vigilance.

And I know that I'm about to lose control.

Friends with older children have given us the weather report... with long days spent in school alongside children of all sorts of philosophies, D will be coming home with all kinds of new ideas and vocabulary.

I know it's inevitable, and in some ways even desirable. We don't actually want to raise our boy in a bubble.

But there's a part of me that thinks about the folks I know who are home- or un-schooling their kids, and I wonder... how do we decide the appropriate level of parental self-sacrifice? Diary, is it selfish for me to want to keep working at this cool job, which pays me to practice some things that really matter to me: listening, and writing, thinking and telling stories, matchmaking and team building? Am I doing the right thing? Is there any way to really be ready for what comes next?

(Thanks to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.)

20 comments:

Robin said...

My oldest child is just a year ahead of yours and is heading to first grade in a few weeks, the first year in elementary school here in Israel, and a worthy subject for mom's existential angst...

He too has been in school for years now (they start early here), he too is ready. It's still scary though, knowing that they've reached the age where peer influence counts for more then parental influence. I just do my best to instill him with the right values and tools, and then hope for the best. There is a very fine line between "involved" and "caring" and "hysterical helicopter mom". I try not to cross it too often.

AMY said...

My girls, 9, 12, and 15 are just about to start their third year in U.S. schools (they were adopted from Africa in 2005). I think yours are the sort of questions that just stay forever open, that you somehow just learn to live with. One part of the puzzle, though, that is worth remembering, is that when you and your son and everyone connected to the two of you engage fully in a public school, it is a pretty powerful political choice in support of community, social justice, and the value of public education.

Stacy said...

It's the foundation you build that will determine your child's values and choices. School is a new place but his world can still be the place you first built for him.

You will make it so.

paisley said...

i wish you all well in this great adventure... i remember my first day f kindergarten... and i am 46... its a big day for both of you....

Paul said...

I fully understand the feelings going through your mind in this post. Maybe the way you exercise your role is changing now. You need to model a positive family influence at home for those times when your son is home. But don't give up on the vigilence. Keep your eye (from a distance) at what is going on at the school. And get involved as much as possible. You can make a difference even there.

Bohemian Mom said...

I can so relate. My daughter is 11 now and it's definitely a scary world out there.
And I swear, it was like yesterday that she was starting kindergarten.
Just expressing your concerns shows you're on the right track. I too, have friends who "home-school", (or profess to, while their kids sit playing video games all day). I personally believe it's much healthier for a child to be in a school setting. Not only are more resources, academic materials, and qualified teachers available to them, but they also need the day to day interaction with their peer group. I believe social growth is essential to raising a healthy, well adjusted child who can enter the adult world of decision making and independence.
Good post!

cloudscome said...

I am right there with you. Kindergarten at a public school - a whole new world opens up! Our boys can handle it.

I just hope I can keep my eyes and ears fully open. I find the hardest thing is that I am in my first days of a new school year at exactly the same time as my boys. I wish I could devote my attention fully on his transition, instead of trying to manage my own and theirs at the same high stress time.

Rob Kistner said...

Interesting post. I raised three 'litluns' -- my baby is now 29. My feeling is one can't coddle and protect their child, even if they want to -- because the world won't when they finally enter it. At some point they need to make their way and experience for themselves. Better they learn to do that when they are young, and resilient -- able to make the lessons a part of their personal foundation. They become stronger that way. They end up doing it their way anyhow. Just be there to love them!

gautami tripathy said...

As you are on the verge of sending your boy to school, it is normal to have questions like this. It is big change for both the child and the parents.

You can only lose control if you let yourself to. Otherwise not!

Wendy said...

i share you dilemma...i've been thinking long and hard about the same issues and my son is only two. expect a phone call when satch reaches d's age...

Fledgling Poet said...

These are worries every parent faces...I can remember my daughter's first day of kindergarten so clearly. She was so happy and ready...I walked her to school and then walked all the way home with tears streaming down my face! It's a pivotal moment in your child's life as they start their school journey and you begin to slowly let go. It's what you teach him at home that will give him his core moral strength and help him make good decisions, regardless of what he comes up against at public school.

Bongga Mom said...

I know what you mean -- my daughter starts first grade next week, and boy did she learn a lot in Kindergarten, both good and bad (mostly good). Letting go seems to be a process that starts once your kid exits your womb.

Vanessa said...

I think this is the true struggle within every parent. You expressed it so well. Thank you.

forgetfulone said...

Gosh, I know these feelings well! My "babies" are off to sixth grade this year, and kindy seems like just yesterday! Cherish the moments.

Redness said...

I guess by now you know you're not alone - do what you have to do and always remember kids learn more from their experiences at home - you'll always have the chance to make him the person you want him to be no matter what happens "out there"! Good Luck!

Jenn said...

No, there's really no way to be completely ready. Try to prepare for all kinds of ideas to come home, from mild ("Oh, we're Lutheran!") to wild ("You CAN'T have two moms!") Mostly it's been okay, 'cause when they're little, they'll ask a question, hear the answer and move on.

Then there's the day he comes home wanting Heelies, which are ridiculous and obscenely expensive and dangerous, but alllll the kids have them!...

Hope said...

You sound very level. I have 4 boys three have lived through kindergarten with just a few extra vocab words to worry me with. We made a rule, if you don't know what a word means, come to mom and dad and we'll tell you. I don't sugar coat, I just edit for age. They get the meaning and know they can trust me. My JoJO (Joseph) said a female derogatory and as soon as he understood the meaning he said "Oh, I won't say that again!" He was very upset he'd even told me. I just stay calm and matter of fact. Never want to make a big deal, just want him to understand.

Marcia (MeeAugraphie) said...

It is probably harder to send them off then when our son went to kindergarten, he is 29 now.

Our children will be exposed to the angst of the world, no matter how much we try to protect them from it. At least being exposed earlier he is still greatly influenced by his parents....

You will make the difference and the right decision for your family.

Anjali said...

Oh, we just sent our daughter off to Kindergarten as well. Education is fluid, one decision you make now about it doesn't have to be determinative of others.

Best of luck!

Shelley said...

Dear friends and visitors, thank you so much for your kindness and wisdom as expressed in these comments. I fell better already!