I reread the email several times, wishing I could take a shot of vodka or something similarly strong before hitting Send. After several months of waiting to see if we’d be winners in the Boston Public School lottery (we were) and in the Brookline housing market (we weren’t), the time had come for me to email Bree’s current school and let them know that we are moving her to Boston Public preschool in the fall.
I should feel very happy about the money we’ll be saving with two kids out of private, full-time (gold plated) daycare, but instead feel an incredible heaviness in my heart.
Bree has been going to this school since she was three months old. It is all that she knows. Over the first four years of her life, she has had some of the best teachers I’ve ever seen, and we have gotten to know some of the nicest families I’ve ever met. Many of her best friends have already moved up to Pre-K as she’s a few months younger than they are (damn Fall birthdays!) and I don’t think it’s fully sunk in that she won’t be joining them in September. We’ve been talking to her for several months about this possibility, even taking her to an Open House to visit her new school. I’ll never forget her reaction when she walked into that empty classroom (which oddly reminded me so much of my old elementary school in Northfield, NH). Instead of running around excitedly, she stepped in, stopped in her tracks and wheeled around, informing Patrick and I that “this is BAD!” She sat on my lap during the Principal’s presentation, her big blue eyes wide as she watched her future classmates, some who weren’t even three yet, tearing the library apart, pulling books from the shelves, knocking over art supplies (and to my shock, USING the art supplies, which were not set out for our use). Most of the other parents didn’t even try to stop their children, and I walked away from the whole thing wondering, what did I get our family into?
But I kept a big smile on my face that day, telling Bree that her school was great. And I do think it is a good school. The curriculum is focused on reading, and most kids are reading before they enter “real” kindergarten. But do I believe that it’s the best place available for my daughter? I’m not so sure. So here’s the conundrum that we all face as parents – how and when do you make decisions that are right for your individual child versus for the good of the family? If you are fortunate enough to have various childcare and/or school options, when do you decide that you’ll settle for “good enough” for one child in order to save your family a little bit of money?
While I’m sad that Emma is also moving on to a new school, I do not have the same concerns about her. I know that I could drop Emma off in any environment, and she’d be just fine. Emma has always had a preternatural and somewhat eerie confidence and independence about her so that on the times when she does have a breakdown/tantrum or admits some fear, I have to remind myself that oh yes, you are only five. I also feel like I know more about Emma’s school and am confident that she’ll learn all the right things in Kindergarten.
Perhaps I don’t give Bree enough credit, but since the day she has been born, she has been an incredible force in our family – both in a joyous and a terrifying way. At her best, she is utterly charming, completely amusing, and empathetic to her friends who are sad. But she’s also very sensitive to how others treat her. It breaks my heart when she tries to engage in a game with Emma, who just shrugs her off. And for a while recently, she was having “bad drop offs” at her current school – crying and screaming when I leave, “Mommy, please don’t leave me!” I’m sure at least part of it is an act. At least that’s what I tell myself when I head to work.
Many people say that transitions like this are harder on parents than they are on children. Maybe I’m just overly sensitive because I moved around a lot as a child, and hated the transition between schools. I made the decision that I would try to minimize the number of times the kids move. Maybe I won’t actually be able to control it; we’ll see. I love the idea of friends growing up together! Bree is excited to go to her new school. We let her pick out a new backpack and lunchbox (Brave/Princess Merida, unfortunately the “jazzed up” version). We’ve made plans for her to continue activities with her “old” friends to maintain those relationships. And since my job is the parent here, I will continue to keep up the big smile and the encouraging words and try to keep the faith that it will all work out in the end.
But will I be able to hide my tears at next week’s “Stepping Up” day at school? We shall see…