Thursday, August 30, 2007

Season of Change

Can you believe it's almost Labor Day? To me, that's the real beginning of fall. Where did the summer go? While part of me is a little melancholy (I can't help but think, We should have run through the sprinkler more; we only put out the baby splash pool one time! And, How often, really, did I sit on the patio in the evening to watch the sun set over the back fields? Did I get in enough glorious runs through that gorgeous 9 p.m. twilight that's already a month gone?), autumn is my favorite season, so I'm also excited and happy about the change of season. Oh, how cool and crisp the last two mornings have been! So heavenly! And that one tree on Woodley Street, with its just-beginning edge of flamey orange? Nice.

But it's a major season of change here, weather and trees and children alike. Last night, for the first time, I stayed awake in bed trying to imagine Julia being brave enough to be left at preschool and be okay, and to be able to independently approach her unfamiliar teacher and say, "I have to use the bathroom," and I just couldn't picture it, because I know in my heart it won't be easy like that. So now I am pondering preschool with both excitement and worry, just as, of course, all mamas are, and do.

A dear friend, a first-time mama, called the other night in a blaze of worry over how to know if the baby's teething, how to know if you should give the baby Tylenol. She said she wanted the advice of an expert mama, someone who'd been down this road a couple of times already, and recently enough to know the answers. "But how do you know for sure?" she asked, when I wholeheartedly endorsed the giving of the baby-Tylenol at any hint of teething distress. Heck, why not? GIVE IT.

But, of course, you never know for sure. You never know for sure if it's teeth or something else, if it's time to start rice cereal or if you really should wait the American Academy of Pediatrics-recommended full six months, if she genuinely needs you at night or it's time to sleep-train. You never know for sure, and that's a strange, rude realization the first time you encounter it--with the possible teething, and the potential baby-Tylenol. Especially when you're by nature an information-gatherer, a planner, an organized decision-maker used to data and knowledge and clear questions with clear answers. But then you get over that first instance of not-knowing, and ten million more follow right behind in the first year of new parenthood alone.

You get used to it. You learn to read the signs, consider the options, trust your intuition and your parenting instinct. You learn to live with not knowing for sure. You don't love it--you're still an empiricist at heart, after all--but you learn to live with it.

And then your baby--the one who cut those teeth and cried when she was however many months old, and you don't even remember, anymore, what it was like exactly, and that you didn't know what to do, and that she kept you up all night--that same baby is three years old and headed off to nursery school. And--guess what?--you don't know for sure how that first day, that first week, that first month, will go. You don't know for sure what she'll say and do when you turn to leave. You don't know for sure that when she needs to use the bathroom, she'll be brave enough to speak to an adult she doesn't yet know. You just don't know.

And it's just one more thing you don't love, but that you can live with.


Nonna said...

You can try to remember that pre-school teachers are "trained" to deal with these things, that they probably have "potty time" regularly, that at the open house you can be visiting with one of them and tell Julia directly, "And when you have to go potty, honey, you can tell Miss Joy, and she will help you, won't you, Miss Joy?" And she will remember that! And if you should have to linger at the back of the classroom or outside the door for a day or two, as I once did, it will be fine, and very soon it won't be necessary at all. Try not to lose too much sleep over these worries!! Kids are more adaptable than parents!!

donna said...

And potty time is built into the daily schedule.

Send her with at least two full sets of extra clothes for the first two weeks, just in case. The only thing worse (for J) than having an accident is having to be uncomfortable in not-your-own-clothes after.

Shan said...

Actually (probably b/c it's only 2-1/2 hours long) they DON'T have a set potty time during the morning. I asked about it at orientation yesterday. Unfortunately it's all very hands-off. The bathroom is open and the teachers won't even go in with a child if they see one go in, unless the child asks for help. I had J. try out the potty while we were there and although it's all child-sized, she still couldn't do any of it by herself. She's potty trained, yes, but she's not able to be fully independent in the bathroom yet. She couldn't even reach the toilet paper from the toilet seat!