Saturday, August 20, 2011

Thoughts on Sending My 2-Year-Old to "School"

As I get the clothing, supplies, and other items in order to send my 2-year-old daughter to nursery school, I am finding that my mother-in-law and others think this may be the worst decision I've ever made -- thus making me the worst mother in human history for pushing her out the door too soon.

It's a decision I've been torn about, but my husband and I believe it is the right one for our daughter. Our home is not typical in that we are juggling the needs of multiple generations as well as some very special needs. We don't want our daughter to get lost in that mix. While having Grandma in the house with us comes with numerous blessings, it also presents a few challenges (especially when Mommy and Daddy are old enough to be grandparents ourselves). The same is true for having a young adult who is developmentally about the same age as our daughter, but physically many times her size. While it is heartwarming to see them play together, not all the behaviors our daughter has picked up in the process are appropriate for her, regardless of whether our niece can help what she does or not.

I hope I don't sound cold-hearted. We do want our daughter to love and appreciate every person she meets regardless of age, race, disability, and so on. We believe our home situation will help foster greater empathy for other people, regardless of differences. We are aware of the good that can come from our family structure. But we are also seeing in our daughter a hunger for playmates her own age. Having no young family members nearby, we have often taken her to play with other children at the library, park, mall, and other public play spaces. This has been good for her, and she enjoys it, but there is no regularity in the kids she sees or the behaviors she learns from them. She will never see most of them again and I think on some level she is a little sad about that. One day she asked why there were no little girls or boys who come to her house to play with her. Having been an only child myself, this nearly broke my heart. 

So this is why we're sending our two-year-old to nursery school -- we don't care if she learns phonics or spelling right now. We just want her to have the opportunity to form ongoing relationships with children her age, who share her faith, and whom she will see on a continuing and regular basis. And we are blessed to have found an affordable place where she can spend a couple of days a week outside the home singing songs, playing, and making friends she WILL see again. We are so grateful to have found a co-op of Catholic homeschooling parents who have formed a wonderful little "school" for their children.

And the best part? I don't have to drop my daughter off and leave. I get to stay, help in a variety of ways, and possibly even teach others. I am so excited to get to share this experience with her!  She is not "leaving" me. We are setting out on an adventure together, where she can learn to be independent while still knowing I'm just in the next room if she needs me. To me, that is the best of both worlds.

So even if this does make me the worst mother in the world in the eyes of some, I know my husband and I have made a choice that will bring our daughter joy and put her on the road to making friends and learning at a comfortable pace. This is a time for joy, and loneliness doesn't foster joy.  She's extremely excited about the why shouldn't we be? 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Learning to Trust Like the Lilies...

From my senior year in high school until the adoption of my daughter, I've worked in some capacity, almost all of it full-time in the professional realm. So now as I sit out another year at home as a new mother, I am learning how frustrating it is to have very little control over our household income, especially in these difficult economic times. While my lifestyle has never been extravagant, I was always able to dine out on a whim, go on vacation, and buy gifts generously when birthdays and holidays rolled around. Getting married only added to my financial security -- we had two sets of income and only one set of household expenses.

Yet, after the arrival of our daughter, we gladly cut back so I could be home with her during these important and early years. I'm a pretty mean budget-maker and a fairly decent "enforcer". And when it comes to coupons, I have mine neatly arranged by category, store and expiration date. I'm also learning to sell old items on Craig's List and buy in bulk to get more bang for our buck. But despite this, I'm worried. No, I am SCARED.  My husband's income is not meager by any means, but between taxes, a mortgage, insurance, home and auto repairs, and the rising costs of just about everything, the paychecks are gone almost as soon as they come in, and our savings cushion has lost a lot of its once-comfy padding. Gasoline prices keep going up, as do groceries and utilities. And we're among the lucky ones. We haven't had to depend on credit to get by. We've trimmed the "fat" from our lifestyle significantly. We seldom eat out, and fast food chains have become our choices when we do. But making ends meet still stresses me out as I match the bills and the budget against the skinny reality of our checking account.

So what's the good news in all of this? God, of course. He's teaching me an important lesson rather late in life: He's there to get us through and all we have to do is trust in Him.  I've always "known" this in an intellectual sort of way. Yet, my self-reliance has always produced the results I needed, so the lesson never truly sank into practice in my life. Jesus' words in Matthew 6 have so much more meaning for me now than they ever did before:

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?

Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, "What are we to eat?" or "What are we to drink?"  or "What are we to wear?" All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

So there's my challenge - learning to trust like the lilies. Others have learned this lesson so much earlier in life than I. Yet, it's never too late to learn something new. So it's time to close the spreadsheets and turn to prayer -- not for my own needs (because all my family's basic needs are met, and then some) but for others, especially those whose need is so much greater, and those who lack faith and feel hopeless in the face of these tough times.

May God bless our country, our neighbors, and especially our children with faith, true joy, and simple trust in Him!