Owl starts preschool this week. We’ve already done summer camp with her new classmates, met the teachers and many of the other families, and learned our responsibilities and work days (the school is a co-op). It’s a lot to take in, but I feel ready, and I believe she is too.
When I first started thinking about preschools, more than a year ago, it all seemed horribly daunting. There were so many options, from home-schooling to forest school, with multiple sub-options for each (there’s a homeschooling organization for families of color in our area, for instance; there’s also Spanish-immersion forest school). I’d heard shocking stories of people putting their children on preschool wait lists before they were even born; we couldn’t compete with such obsessive commitment (nor would we want to). Eventually we talked about what we wanted out of preschool, then made a list of schools we would consider, and narrowed it down to the ones we felt most drawn to. Even this felt like it might be overkill — my sister, for one, did not do anything as complicated as this — but then, I tend to be curatorial. We toured five schools and got into the one we loved most; best of all, our friends did too (the camaraderie has already been beautiful, as when we all cried together on the first day of summer camp).
Parents have a lot of feelings about their kids starting school. Common sentiments: “I can’t believe we’re already here,” “I’m so sad they’re leaving home”, “my baby is growing up”. I have to say, none of these resonate that hard with me. I did cry at summer camp, because Owl did, and I could see what a big transition it was for her, and that made it hard for me to leave. And the night before, as I was getting spare clothes ready to store in her cubby, I had a choked-up moment when I realized I was preparing to turn her over into someone else’s care. But actually, I am super, super eager to reclaim some regular time without her — and given her chattiness and her imagination, I am more than ready for her to throw all that exuberance at somebody else. I think, also, most parents get less time with their kids than they want, whereas I’ve always had (this sounds terrible?) a lot more than felt good for me, because I’m so overstimulated all the time. I don’t feel shocked at how quickly the time has gone, because I can still feel clearly all the hours of boredom, loneliness, exhaustion, and despair, with their attendant guilt and anxiety.
This isn’t to say I don’t have moments where I’m struck by how fleeting this stage is. I remember a friend said when Owl was a baby, how excited she was that her kids were now both in school, but how bittersweet it was knowing that those early years at home — with family as the center of the universe — were at an end. I’ve come back to her words many times as we’re getting ready for preschool. I can’t wait for it to start, but she’s right; these days will never come again. But that’s a truth of life at any stage. Nothing lasts, from the sweetest things to the hardest — and parenting is both of those, and everything in between.