Today is my four year old’s last day of preschool, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the milestone.
On Milestones: I’m jammed this week and I’ve been at my office since 6:15 am, so I won’t be able to take my kid to school (like I do daily) let alone come in and hang out for the milestone day. I was beating myself up about this last night, but realized that little kids are learning so fast that everyday is a milestone in their lives—so they just want (and need) you to be present when you are around. Three weeks ago, my kid’s drawings went from scribblings to figures, and he also he suddenly started writing. He and I just got back from a Memorial Day trip together on Sunday and he drew me this picture and note. I’m all choked up over here just looking at it again this morning. Major milestones indeed. So I offer thanks to my amazing wife who’s covering for me today on the school routine despite her own crazy schedule. And to her and my son: I promise to be present when we’re together.
On Teachers’ Advice About Your Kid: I think I’m pretty good at processing criticism of my own actions respectfully and honestly, but I learned this year that it’s much harder to have clarity when taking criticism about my child. I started out as the stereotypically defensive parent when hearing how my kid “has his own protocol for following instructions” or “can exhibit dominant behavior on the playground or in the sandbox.” My knee-jerk response to such feedback: Obviously–He’s 4. But I came to realize two things: (1) parents who fight teachers just put a target on their kid’s back, (2) most teachers are genuinely just trying to help kids grow and develop. So I opened up and we did what the teachers recommended. Surprise, surprise: it worked! He’s happier and we’re happier for it too.
On Trusting Your Parental Judgment: That said, I also learned this year that you can’t blindly follow everything a teacher says. Many teachers aren’t parents so they can’t know the fine points of what impacts a child’s behavior day to day. We’d been told throughout preschool that our child should be napping less or maybe shouldn’t nap at all. But he’s always been a sleeper and quite enjoys it (just like his parents). But more to the point: for him, sleep or lack thereof acutely impacts his ability to listen, follow instructions, and generally participate in activities with teachers, coaches, parents, friends, etc. So we’ve held the line on certain topics like this because, while we respect a teacher’s perspective dealing with all kinds of children, we feel we know what’s best for our child.
On Other Parents’ Advice About Your Kid’s Education: That discipline of being honest with yourself about which advice to take or not is especially important when it comes to dealing with other parents. The opinions were coming fast and furious during our kindergarten/elementary school research/application process over the past year. It was overwhelming for me and eventually became so for my wife (who was all over this process, one of the many things I love about her). And a few months ago it all came clear to me when I talked to a client who’s a mom of three middle school and high school boys. She told me that it took her many years to realize that a lot of parents are simply projecting their views upon you when dispensing advice. Or worse, they’re so competitive (whether they realize it or not) that their advice might be an attempt to throw you off course. Our conundrum was whether to keep our kid in transitional kindergarten because he’ll still be 4, or to go forward with kindergarten. We got a few “he’s not ready” from other parents which rattled us at first, but eventually took my client’s advice to trust our own judgment.
I could go on and with the random thoughts that every parent thinks, but I’ll end it here for today and get back to my normal subject matter. I offer congratulations and respect to all the other parents (and teachers!!) out there celebrating end-of-school milestones…