What makes a summer? Preschool revisited

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When my first child was born, I was determined to give him an idyllic childhood.  A childhood free of time-stress, overscheduling, demands to perform, and all the pressure that seems to accompany even the preschool set here in D.C.  I read the preschool admissions and waitlist stories on the DC Urban Moms email list with horror, shuddered when I read The Nanny Diaries, and turned instead to online discussions by the Not Quite Crunchy Parent and others researching and living The Waldorf Way.

I had visions of making all my child’s own toys and helping him explore the wonders of nature every day … at least until he turned six.

I did pretty well, actually, compiling play materials and posts about natural materials and wooden toys, about splashing in the sink with bubbles and food coloring, about making our own dollhouses and fire stations, and was well on my way to being a kinda crunchy, totally invested, creative parent.

But then I got sick.  Really sick.  First with a difficult pregnancy, and then with inflammatory breast cancer.   Suddenly, my time was not my own any more.  Too much of it belonged to the doctors, to the waiting rooms, and to the treatment areas; my little boys were spending more and more of their time with Daddy.  With Grandma.  With Grandpa.  With friends.  It became a cycle, my guilt and their goodness, and it peaked every time my three year old was taken from me as I fell asleep (again), screaming “Mommy, Mommy!  I want my Mommy!” 

My baby rarely knew the difference, as I had now been sick most of his life.  But my big kid (as he likes to be called) needed something more.  A space of his own.  A safe space, where he could be the kid that he would need to become, separate from sick Mommy and away from cancer.

So we enrolled him in preschool in January.  Slow to enjoy it, he protested at being taken away each morning, “No, Mommy, stay!  I want to be wif you!  I’ll take a nap too — I just want to be wif you,” breaking my heart a little more each day. 

He is happier now, and adjusting, and he is even going to preschool extra days this week, as I fight the radiation fatigue that pins me to the bed and takes all my energy like a thief in the night.

But now that we’re in a routine that is somewhat acceptable to all, the question rears its ugly head … what about the summer?  What about my long awaited dreams of poking around in the mud, growing our own vegetables, paddling around in the neighborhood creek with my little boys?  Will I be strong enough?  Will they?  Or is year-round preschool the right decision for us?

I’m afraid, for now, it must be, as I am not yet strong enough to parent my boys in exactly the way I had dreamed, but still I am reluctant to let go of the vision of a long, lazy summer, stretching out before us with the promise of all that is new and open and good and filled with possibility.

This post originally appeared at DC Metro Moms Blog.

8 Responses to What makes a summer? Preschool revisited

  1. Sarah S. says:

    It is good to have goals to strive for. It gives us something to work for and look forward to. It is very hard sending them away to school. But they always come back. They grow so much when they are there and become new little social people. Try not to worry too much. He is stronger than you think. Plus you are his superstar.

  2. Susan K says:

    Susan,

    Year round pre-school, but short days. Gives him some time with other kids and not you, a chance to gain some more independence and help him be ready for the transition to ‘real’ school. And you can get some rest.

    But pick him up at 2, or whenever nap time is over. That can give you several hours of afternoon to do those things you want to do.

    The best of both worlds I think.

  3. maryelena says:

    Hi Susan —

    I agree with Susan K — shorter days for summer preschool or maybe a shorter week if you are up to it. When you are feeling better it might be just the thing to have the oldest in school while the younger one gets mommy time and then the oldest comes home just before the youngest’s nap and he gets mommy to himself for a while and then all together when Daddy gets home.

    Hope you managed to enjoy the nice weather today.

  4. What very good advice from Susan K and maryelena… I absolutely agree with them.

    It is so hard to encourage them to go off to preschool… I know, I’ve done it with all three of my girlies… But you know what? It really does open up the world a little bit to them, and it’s a happy, fun-filled little world. It gives them something to look forward to and enjoy, and be excited and proud to tell us about at the end of the day.

    And Susan? It will give you a little extra time to rest and recoup… and ensure that you will be the very best mummy you can possibly be to those beautiful wee boys.

    Love to you– CGF xoxo

  5. deb says:

    What about hiring help for you this summer? A young woman who can take the boys to the park for a few hours while you rest. Is that a possibility?

  6. debi says:

    Always you touch my heart. I have lurked here for a while now. But tonight I just wanted to delurk to say how much I admire you and the kind of mommy you are. Your babies are so blessed.

  7. heather says:

    I’ve lurked here for a while too, but this post reminded me of the struggle I have dropping my son off at daycare on nice days. I remember my own summers drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, and going to the pool and playing in sandboxes.

    Half day preschool sounds like a good option if it’s available.

  8. […] admit I’ve been struggling with this.  As spring turns into summer, the hoodies are packed away, and the radiation cream-stained shirts are tossed, I’m looking […]

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