Both of my kids started a preschool program a few months ago, but were previously spending 12hrs/week with a babysitter. Our pulmonologist instructed us to prevent as much illness as humanly possible for June during her first two years of life since these early years of lung development are some of the most critical. While yes, some families of kids with cystic fibrosis don’t have any other option than to send their kids to cesspools, I mean “day cares”, we hired a sitter. This luxury was made possible through the generosity of grandparents who recognized the complexity of our situation and offered financial support.
The sitter situation came to an abrupt halt when I was knee deep in the pursuit of a major project (I’ll tell you about it next week!) that I didn’t want to abandon. Finding a replacement felt like, well, a huge pain the ass. I’d have to go over Owen’s food restrictions, train the sitter in how to use an Epi Pen and inhaler, discuss June’s supplement regiment, and describe how to care for her special condition. And after all of that, I’d have to trust that whoever was watching my kids was going to actually do everything I had instructed them to do.
Rather than go through this hoopla, we instead chose the local cesspool, I mean “preschool” (gah, there I go again) that had previous experience with kids with food allergies.
I was expecting the worst, but preschool has been wonderful on so many levels. The teachers have been awesome – I’ve even cried multiple times in my daughter’s classroom, which was met with full support and empathy – and my four and half year old absolutely loves the time he gets to spend with his peers. The school has been more than happy to accommodate both of my kids’ special needs and I feel like we’ve been welcomed into a fabulous community.
We Went Too Far
Our experience with preschool hasn’t alleviated my concerns about public school and whether schools are truly equipped – to my standard – to care for my kids and their special considerations. So, we checked out the local Montessori school as an alternative and I felt like I was walking into a Zen-like calm of cultivated learning. The clouds parted as we stepped out of our car and glorious beams of sunlight shone down on the director’s head as we moved into his office to discuss financial aid options. I was home. (I may or may not have embellished this story. You’ll have to decided for yourself.)
My husband and I discussed our finances, and then we discussed our finances some more. A few days later, I created a spreadsheet and we, you guess it, talked about finances. We decided that we could just barely make Montessori work (for one child, keep in mind) if we cut out all unnecessary discretionary spending. We could refuse beer dates with friends, ride our bike tires beyond what was reasonably safe, ignore the fact that we need to purchase compost for another new garden bed this year, and only buy ourselves shoes every seven years rather than every four or five. No problem, we got this.
We signed him up, paid the $250 nonrefundable deposit, danced a little jig, and then reality set in – we just stretched ourselves too far. Well, shit. Now what?
The truth is that I want the best for my kids and I often make sacrifices at my own expense in order to guarantee their safety, happiness and well-being. Our decision to send Owen to Montessori was based on my desire to offer him the best opportunity available, but at what price? At what point do you draw the line and decide that what’s best for an individual might not be best for the whole family?
I’m trying to focus more on recharging my own reserves and connecting on a deeper level with my husband. Parenting these two humans is challenging at times and I’m a hell of a lot better at it when I take time for myself. If I’m constantly focusing on doing whatever it takes to provide my kids with the best, I start sacrificing a little bit of my own need. And what I’m realizing is that by doing this I’m actually providing my kids with less, not more.
When Good is Good Enough
You know why my kids are going to do amazeballs no matter what school I send them to? You guessed it. Because I’m invested and involved in their lives. As the crazy, research-driven parent that I am, I investigated the outcomes for children in Montessori schools vs. public schools and you know what I learned? Yes, kids in Montessori generally perform better socially and intellectually, but these same benefits are achieved when children have involved parents.
So, it’s not about the school and what’s going to be best for the child. It’s about the family unit and what’s going to achieve balance. What I’m learning is that balance sometimes means that the “best” isn’t good enough, but rather “good” is good enough.
If you’re reading this and thinking that I’m no longer a proponent of Montessori then you totally missed the point. I don’t give a damn about the school you choose. The point is that we’re a society obsessed with raising our children in the most perfect way possible – they get the trendiest shoes and clothes, they have the coolest jacket, they go to the best school, we read all of the parenting suggestions and desperately try to be better than our own parents (were they really that bad?). But all the while, us parents are maxing out credit cards, working extra hours to provide our children with unnecessary things, and occupying too much brain space with parental considerations. What our kids really need is for us to live within our means and be present in our thoughts as much as possible. Our kids need us to put down our phones and start making choices that will not only benefit the child, but will create a happier family unit.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with our school situation for next year (we’re currently trying to work that out), but I do know that I want to stop focusing quite as much on what’s “best” for the kids and start thinking more about what’s going to be “good enough”. And good enough just might be best for the whole family.
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