Sentimental Education

Today marks the first day that my first born enters the public world of education as a Kindergartner. Arguably ridiculous, I have spent the past year(s) preparing both of us for this transition. As my daughter is quite scholastic, I knew she would thrive in an academic environment. As for me, well, I am embarking on foreign territory. I thought I was prepared but was soon humbled.

Last week was the typical “Meet the Teacher Night,” where students and parents are educated on the happenings of the school and classroom. From the moment I entered the school building, I felt lost. Holding a diaper box full of school supplies in one hand and in the other, my daughter’s hand, I carried myself with a façade of omnipotence. I stumbled into the classroom where I was greeted by a bright faced Kindergarten teacher who led me in the right direction. Looking around, I saw parents with a confidence I lacked. To them, this was old hat: a comfortable routine. As the teacher made her slide presentation, I frantically took notes. As a matter of fact, I prepared a notecard full of questions such as “Can we provide peanut products? ” to ask the teacher. She answered my questions thoroughly, yet I left with even more unanswered questions and an uneasy feeling as tears welled up. Did I mention that my 2 year old was also spitting out goldfish on the floor while laughing?

Why was this so difficult for me? I am not an overbearing mother clinging onto every ounce of baby fat left on my child. On the contrary, I feel I have been successful in giving her an equal balance of nurture and independence.

I thought of numbers. As a predominately stay-at-home-mom, I have had the pleasure and insanity of spending the majority of the past 5 years with my children. In mathematical terms, that is equivalent to 1, 975 days of hearing their little voices, feeding their little mouths, teaching their little brains and holding their little bodies. Averaging 8-10 hours of sleep, that is 29, 625 hours of active mommy-kid time. Per year, that is 5, 475 hours. With school, that number is reduced to 3,510… a 36% decrease. In other words, I’ll be seeing a lot less of the kid. Essentially, I am giving up partial hold of the reins.

We became a unit, whether by choice or necessity, all day, every day. Now, that unit is being separated. Someone else, other than my husband and me, will play a part in molding her and “the real world” commences. Our roles get more difficult as the foundation we work so hard to build will become tested by external factors. It is the mystery of the unknown.

My fear? It’s simple really. Much like the novel, Sentimental Education, where art is reduced to being mass produced as a commodity, I fear my child will not be viewed as the unique individual she is, but rather a nameless number. I fear the confident, creative spark in her eyes will be diminished by arbitrary labels and quantitative expectations.

As of this afternoon, my child is now .043% done with her pre-college education. I better start preparing now.