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April 09, 2008

Education: What makes a summer?

treasure

When my first child was born, I was determined to give him an idyllic childhood.  A childhood free of time-stress, overscheduling, demands to perform, and all the pressure that seems to accompany even the preschool set here in D.C.  I read the preschool admissions and waitlist stories on the DC Urban Moms email list with horror, shuddered when I read The Nanny Diaries, and turned instead to online discussions by the Not Quite Crunchy Parent and others researching and living The Waldorf Way.

I had visions of making all my child's own toys and helping him explore the wonders of nature every day ... at least until he turned six.

I did pretty well, actually, compiling play materials and posts about natural materials and wooden toys, about splashing in the sink with bubbles and food coloring, about making our own dollhouses and fire stations, and was well on my way to being a kinda crunchy, totally invested, creative parent.

But then I got sick.  Really sick.  First with a difficult pregnancy, and then with inflammatory breast cancer.   Suddenly, my time was not my own any more.  Too much of it belonged to the doctors, to the waiting rooms, and to the treatment areas; my little boys were spending more and more of their time with Daddy.  With Grandma.  With Grandpa.  With friends.  It became a cycle, my guilt and their goodness, and it peaked every time my three year old was taken from me as I fell asleep (again), screaming "Mommy, Mommy!  I want my Mommy!" 

My baby rarely knew the difference, as I had now been sick most of his life.  But my big kid (as he likes to be called) needed something more.  A space of his own.  A safe space, where he could be the kid that he would need to become, separate from sick Mommy and away from cancer.

So we enrolled him in preschool in January.  Slow to enjoy it, he protested at being taken away each morning, "No, Mommy, stay!  I want to be wif you!  I'll take a nap too -- I just want to be wif you," breaking my heart a little more each day. 

He is happier now, and adjusting, and he is even going to preschool extra days this week, as I fight the radiation fatigue that pins me to the bed and takes all my energy like a thief in the night.

But now that we're in a routine that is somewhat acceptable to all, the question rears its ugly head ... what about the summer?  What about my long awaited dreams of poking around in the mud, growing our own vegetables, paddling around in the neighborhood creek with my little boys?  Will I be strong enough?  Will they?  Or is year-round preschool the right decision for us?

I'm afraid, for now, it must be, as I am not yet strong enough to parent my boys in exactly the way I had dreamed, but still I am reluctant to let go of the vision of a long, lazy summer, stretching out before us with the promise of all that is new and open and good and filled with possibility.

This post originally appeared at the DC Metro Moms Blog and was authored by Susan, WhyMommy at Toddler Planet.

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