So you don’t subscribe to an Official Parenting Philosophy, so what?
“I’ll just get here at like 4:00 AM that day,” I whispered to my husband. “That oughta do it.”
Like it was no big deal. Like getting up at a time that shouldn’t even EXIST to turn in an application that could probably be turned in slightly later isn’t slightly insane. But these are not the words of a sane person. These are the words of a person in the middle of a preschool open house.
Originally, I didn’t think we’d start preschool for my daughter at age two. But I bounce around like a pinball from one parenting philosophy to another, seeing the appeal of each in turn, first Free-Range, then Finnish, Tiger, then French. Some days I feel like I want to let my child go feral, totally cage-free. She’ll only be this little once, and there’s no academic need to push her or teach her to read now or anything. Kindergarteners in Finland are joyfully illiterate. Why rush?
Other days, I look at preschool or music class brochures and think that yes, while she’ll be in the youngest age-group there, why not start now? The only way to get to Carnegie Hall is to practice, practice, practice. “Oh, but she’s so little,” I’ll muse. But then, many children in France start at the creche around two.1 By any number of standards, I could make the “right” choice no matter what I end up doing.
I imagine myself getting to the preschool in the predawn hours: cold, shivering as I clutch my daughter’s preschool application between my bone-cold fingers. Teeth chattering. Heart pounding. This will decide my daughter’s future. This is important. This is why I’m here. I’m trying to do what’s best.
Ugh, that word “best.”
I firmly believe that most parents fall into the camp of Trying Our Best. What constitutes “best” differs from person to person though. It’s touchy. Choosing one method over another has so much to do with one’s individual child, not what the books say. But if I say I’m trying to do what’s best for my child by only using an Amish buggy as transportation, and it’s an immediate judgment on all people who use cars…when maybe it’s only me having a fear of cars, and has nothing to do with what everyone else is doing or not doing.
“Choosing what’s best” has so many gross judgmental implications, and I hate it. I hate that I can’t say I’m trying to do what’s best for my kid without sounding like a judgmental snob who thinks you’re doing it wrong if you aren’t doing it this way too.
The things we do for our children are deeply important to us…and maybe not so important within the greater rolling sea of parenting options. Preschool, no preschool…Suzuki…no reading education until seven…anyone will tell you either this is right, or this is wrong, and here are all the academic reasons why. It’s maddening, until you start to not care. And I think, at 19 months into this parenthood gig, I’m starting to hit my stride and not care if what I think is best for my family is met with Reactions.
So if you see me out there, sea-foam scarf flapping, my cold hands balled up tight and the chill March air whipping through my freezing body and crackling the preschool application in the predawn wind, please know this: I’m trying my best.
“She’s crazy,” anyone could say, looking at me. “I would never do that.” And maybe they won’t.
I’m not a Free-Range, Finnish, Tiger, or French mom. I’m a Richmond mom, trying her best.
I think that oughta be enough.2