As we perused the racks of school uniforms, I held back tears.
Wasn’t I just holding our first baby tightly against my chest, breathing in her precious newborn scent? Since when did years pass by in only seconds? And since when did little navy polos and black Mary Jane’s and Back to School Shopping become an integral part of my life?
I knew these days would come eventually. Babies barely leave the birth canal before society wants to know how, when, and where their parents plan to educate them.
But as I held up different sizes of pants and shirts to my daughter’s four-year-old frame, I knew that while a large part of me felt sensitive to motherhood’s changing seasons, the other part of me was struggling to let myself change my mind.
I’ll never send her to school before Kindergarten, I used to think and say out loud.
It was part of a long list of “I’ll Never” phrases about parenting I had compiled, mostly before I became a parent. See also: I’ll never be strict about my kids’ sleeping schedule, or I’ll never let my kids eat white bread.
Now, here I am swallowing my words along with a large lump in my throat as our daughter is not only enrolled in preschool, but will be there all day for five days of the week.
It’s not exactly what I would consider a gentle pendulum swing, but our complicated circumstances have led to a complicated decision. And my pride is struggling to gulp down what I formerly said out of pre-parental ignorance.
I wanted to think that even just a few years ago I was smart enough to have it all figured out – to map out my kids’ lives and my choices as a parent that would get them to my desired destination. Forget the generations before me who said smart things like, “Kids don’t come with a handbook. You have to figure things out as you go, and then figure things out again as your kids grow and change.”
When my daughter was a baby, I wanted to write the parenting handbook. Like today’s parenting culture that I contribute to, I wanted to buy into the lie that I must figure it all out right now and stick to my decisions like the sucker tangled up in my daughter’s curly hair.
But now, as I place the school calendar on the fridge behind a public library magnet, I want to shatter all of the “I’ll Never’s” I used to believe were chiseled into fireproof concrete. I want to unclench my Mom Fists and chill out and give myself permission:
I want to give myself permission to not have every stage of parenting figured out before I get there. Right now, we have a four year old and a one year old. So, I don’t want to waste my energy worrying about what school my kids will go to when they are eleven years old, or how I will discipline them when they are the age of cell phones and curfews, or how I will ensure they at least know the difference between washing a load of whites and colors. I won’t worry myself to death about tomorrow’s obstacles when today has enough tantrums and poopy diapers to leap over on its own.
I want to give myself permission to change my mind. If my daughter goes to preschool every day and it’s not a great fit, we can reevaluate and change course as necessary. Whether it’s nutrition, schedules, discipline, or education – no single parenting decision is set in stone, and no single parenting decision will be the cause of my child’s success or complete ruin. Parenting involves a healthy dose of trial and error, and prayers for wisdom along with heaps of grace are great companions for what can feel like a murky journey at times.
And I want to give myself permission to stop saying “I’ll never…” As if motherhood were actually that predictable. Faith and experience will continue to shape me as a mom, and will hopefully impart wisdom for decisions that maybe don’t feel as certain as they used to.
We are sending our daughter to school before Kindergarten, we decided this year. And I’m so glad I was willing to change my mind.
Grace and Peace,