My little guy has been a great helper lately. It is so nice to see him so proud of the things he can do. He’s dressing himself, using the potty, putting on his shoes, helping me cook. Last night he put the forks on the table for dinner – one at each place – and then, on his own accord, he opened the drawer, got the knives (not the super-sharp-poke-your-eye-out ones) and set them at our places. He then carried his full plate to his place. The kid is 27 months old. And it is little stuff, but it made him feel capable and important. I like that. And I like him to feel that way.
I learned recently that the ramp-up to preschool in New York City is kind of hysterical. Now, granted, NYC is its own world. I daresay the majority of the folks I know there – all super successful Manhattanites – have nannies for their children, or are SAHMs (or some combo). That is the norm, for many reasons. Kids grow up very differently there than they do here. However, the ramp-up for half-day preschool included:
- The application/acceptance insanity (know anyone who lives there? Ask them about it. When my nephew was born there in April, my husband sent a text message to the new dad saying, “Congratulations on L’s arrival! Sorry to say, you have been rejected from every preschool in NYC because your application was not timely.”);
- A home (!) visit by the teacher;
- An individual family visit to the school;
- A first full week of half half-day preschool – which would be quarter day? which would be 2 hours long?
- On the first day, the school provides coffee to the parents, and the parents are required to stay in the school lobby for the entire half-half day.
And don’t get me started on the fundraising, bake sales, etc.
I’m not a push-my-kid-off-the-dock-to-teach-them-to-swim kind of parent. I try to kindly and gently ease my kids into new situations. I try to take temperament, age, and development into consideration. I try to be reasonable in my expectations, positive and honest. That being said…
I do have expectations. I expect that my kiddos will face challenges, new people, new places, and things they find scary. And while I want them to know that I am always there for them, they also need to know that I might not always be there with them. And that’s okay. Because they’re okay – better than okay – and in almost every situation they can adapt, survive, integrate, and surmount their fears and anxieties. I want them to be able to be proud of doing things for and by themselves. Because, after all, isn’t helping to create a capable, functional and productive member of society one of the most basic things we’re striving for as parents?
Yes, NYC is different. The classroom setting that my kids have been used to since +/- 6 months old is new to a lot of NYC kids. And my NYC mom-friend is looking forward to meeting the other parents on that first day; that makes sense to me.
But we need to give those kiddos more credit. Have a meet-the-teacher/see-the-classroom/meet-the-parents Open House, then off to the races. I know in my heart that most of those doodlebugs can handle 3.5 hours of a new place, other kids, and adults who are new to them. And they can handle it without their parents sitting in the lobby.
Some of you might wonder why we shouldn’t ease the kiddos in gradually if we have the opportunity. Why? Because life doesn’t usually work that way.
Give them a chance to experience new things, sometimes uncomfortable things, on their own. Give them a chance to be their own people – little people who are learning to be adaptable, resilient and capable. Give them a chance to own their new experience. Give them a chance to be proud of the things they can accomplish. Today it is velcro shoes, knives on the table, and four hours at preschool. Tomorrow, the world.