Monday, August 10, 2009

You Won't Always Know.

This week I mail in Genevieve's preschool tuition. The deadline falls on her birthday, when we'll be busy, so I plan to send it in early; by Tuesday or Wednesday, the decision will be over and done. We've been playing "first day of nursery school" in our house lately, using Julia's old preschool tote bag and pretending to drive in the car to the church, go in the front door, find a miniature locker labeled "Genevieve." We pretend to hang up her bag and say hello to her teacher. We practice being excited about the buddies we know at school and about all the fun toys there. I cheerfully hug and kiss her goodbye, and I turn to go. Genevieve is, without fail, smiling and cheerful during this game. I am trying to get her used to the idea of watching me walk away from her.

During the past eight months of deliberation over the preschool question, as I have agonized over whether she would be ready to go this year and sought insight and counsel from countless other moms and friends, several people have said to me, "You will know the right decision for Genevieve. She's your child; you will know the right thing to do." And every one of them meant it to be reassuring and helpful; I appreciate this.

The hardest thing about this whole decision-making process, for me, was that I don't know. I didn't know, and I don't know now. If I knew, I wouldn't have been asking all of you what you thought I should do.

When you become a mom, you feel like--and you're told that--you're supposed to "just know" what's right for your baby, just by being her mother. And surely, many times you truly do; think of my comment about how I always knew Genevieve wasn't crying at bedtime because she wants to be in a bed, not a crib. But knowing your child best is not the same thing as always knowing the right thing to do for your child in a particular situation--knowing what decision to make for her when it's your job to do so. Sometimes you JUST DON'T KNOW. Even though you're the mom. Even though you grew that baby out of your very own body and you spend her every waking moment with her. You still might not know.

The most helpful comment anyone made to me about Genevieve and preschool actually came from two separate friends, who both said that either decision I could make would turn out just fine. Think on the power of that message for a moment, to an over-stressed, over-thinking mama trying to do the right thing but worrying that whatever decision she makes now will have repercussions spanning years of schooling ahead.

Either option--though different--will end up fine.

Concentrating on that idea--and the fact that Genevieve told me many, many times that she wants to go to nursery school this year, familiar as she is with it from the past two years of bringing Julia there--is what made me decide to send in the preschool tuition. Yes, she's young, but she's in a coincidentally very young cohort of three-year-olds. Yes, I'm home full-time, and the toddler years fly by, but it's only five hours total per week, and EVERY OTHER HOUR I am constantly with her--it's not as if I'm giving away my baby. Yes, she's a wee clingy babe, but this is a tiny, loving, gentle, play-based nursery school where she can begin to gain some experience spending time with a caregiver who is not me. Yes, I worry about how small and babyish she still is, and wonder if I'm doing the right thing, but I can use those five hours per week to write up a book proposal--something I've wanted but been unable to find time to do for the past two years. Yes, she's younger and smaller than everyone else, but she's smart as a whip and has ten toddler-friends she personally knows enrolling in the class this year as well.

I wish I could tell every new or soon-t0-be mother out there that there will be times you don't know what the right decision is for your child. That yes, you're the mom, and yes, you love her and know her the best, but you won't always have a gut feeling about the one right thing to do.

There's nothing wrong with you when this happens. You're not the only one to feel this way. This confusion and uncertainty--it's OK. Accept it. Accept that you don't really know.

You need to make a decision anyway.


Mnmom said...

Actually, "I don't know" is a very normal response in parenthood. They are complicated little people, and this is a complicated world. I agree that either way - she'll be just fine. Really.

donna said...

I totally agree with Mnmom. Not knowing comes with the territory.

G will be fine - because both choices are good ones (which is why it was so hard to choose). At least now no one is in limbo and you can work on getting her (even more) prepared.