Yesterday we took a tour of Bea’s preschool. We met her teachers and the kids in her class, she got to see where her cubby will be, and finally had an opportunity to go on the playground that she’s been staring at wistfully for the past year. We had to physically drag her out when it was time to head home.
But when we got home, finished lunch, and started reading books in her room, she asked who would be snuggling her at nap time when she’s at school. I didn’t know how to answer that other than to say, “Well, you nap by yourself at school, like on a cot that we take with us on trips to Indianapolis.” And I realized that being able to stay home with her for three years has been a pretty amazing opportunity. Even though there are days when I have to go sit in my bedroom and take deep breaths while she shouts at me through the door; even though I can’t always go to the bathroom by myself; even though it’s been a real financial struggle at times; even though I’ve been working and going to school all this time and am not, actually a “stay at home mom” . . . I have had a hand in creating this little person, molding her into the person she is now.
Almost everything she knows, I have taught her. She can count to 20 in English and to 10 in Spanish, knows a couple dozen signs, spells her name, recites the alphabet, recognizes shapes and colors. She is outgoing and social, friendly, good at sharing, listens, responds to nonverbal cues, empathizes with other people, behaves herself at restaurants (for the most part).
We don’t drill her with flash cards. She watches a lot of TV. We spend time just playing. Sometimes we do nothing. I try to keep her time with electronics limited, but Charlie likes to just hand off the iPad and chuckle as she navigates her way to and through the Netflix app to watch the shows she enjoys. I try to show her how we read from left to right, top to bottom. I don’t force her to write or trace or color in the lines. I let her be a kid.
But there are still things she needs to learn that I’m not capable of teaching her. Math, for one. There are times when she really needs to be with other people and I’ve had my fill of socialization. Times when I can’t chat with one more mom about her kids’ food allergies. Times when I’m so irritated with the parents and their children’s screaming that I have to plop Bea into her stroller and power walk home.
And there’s a large part of me that, after three years, will feel a little lost when I’m at work and school while she’s learning new things and meeting new people and making new friends, and I’ll have no part in any of it. Hours of her day that are unaccounted for. New words she comes home having learned. One day she’ll be able to write her own name, tie her own shoes, or pass some milestone on her own, without me or Charlie being the ones to hold her hand as she leaps.
That realization breaks my heart a little bit, but I hope that I’ve given her the tools she needs to feel independent and secure in taking those leaps and that there are plenty more I can still walk beside her for.