On Saturday afternoon, I went to the community pool with M. He was having fun splashing in the kiddie pool, when another mom and her 11-month-old son came over near us to avoid some of the bigger kids hurling their bodies around all willy-nilly.
We chatted a bit, and she went on about how insane it was that the HOA told her she couldn’t use the floaty thing to keep her non-walking baby safe in the shallow water. From what she discribed, the situation was handled poorly by the authority figure, and it was subsequently addressed to her satisfaction afterward.
She asked, of course, how old M was. When I told his age, 19 months, she asked where he was enrolled in preschool.
Um. Excuse me? He’s not even two. I thought I had a couple more years before I had to worry about school.
According to her, it’s super important for little ones to be socialized, especially if they have a stay-at-home parent. And the two-day preschool program for two-year-olds not only teaches them to be social with kids their own age, but also provides that stay-at-home parent with a break.
She told me that she intended to get her boy on the lists for the prime preschools soon because the spots are in high demand and fill up fast. So of course, for the rest of our playtime at the pool, after she went to doze in the shade with her babe and husband, all I could do was worry if I should really be worrying about this stuff now.
I came to the conclusion that remarks like these are well-intentioned, but not set-in-stone rules of parenthood. Some people home school. Others do preschool. Others start like I did, with kindergarten at age 4. Every child needs something different, and there is no such thing as “by-the-book” parenting.
I stay at home because I love spending time with my kid. We have a routine that works well enough, and even the bad days contain more than a few beautiful moments. Why should I be in a hurry to give that up and send him off to school? Why should I pay for a glorified daycare (which is all preschool would be at his age, anyway) when I can teach him ABCs, 123s, colors and all that crap myself. Why should I stress my own days with on-time drop-offs and pick-ups? We have play dates, and I’m not worried about his ability to socialize.
And yet, this other mom totally got to me. I know my kid, and I know he’s fine. I know he’ll be fine for another couple years until it’s time to find a school for him, but I still got so paranoid about the whole issue. It was like my gut was having to justify itself to my brain. Because my brain was all, “maybe you should look into this.” And my gut replied by slapping my brain across the face. Gut wins. I know what’s right for us, and I want my kid to be ready for school, because if he’s not ready, he might hate it and not want to learn stuff anymore. And he loves to learn so much that I’d hate to see that enthusiasm fade too soon.
There’s so much pressure on kids these days. To me, I don’t think earlier schooling is the answer. He’s got plenty of time for all that later. Which I’m sure will still feel like too soon for me.