If It Were Me | January 2017

By Elizabeth Oates

Have Questions?

Dear Elizabeth,

My daughter is in elementary school, and my son will start preschool next fall. They are both very bright. The problem is my husband and I can’t agree on where
to send our son to preschool. I want him to attend the same one our daughter attended. I know the director, the teachers, and it’s where most of my friends send their kids, so he would easily make lots of friends. My husband wants our son to go to a different school because he feels like our son needs a different type of curriculum and learning environment from what our daughter experienced. We are at an impasse and wondered what your thoughts were on the subject.

– N.P.

Dear N.P.,

I remember when my three older kids were preschool age, and my husband and I were trying to make the same decision y’all are making right now. I thought, “This shouldn’t be so di cult; it’s just preschool!” But as parents, we all want the best for our children, no matter their age or stage.

That being said, I tend to side with your husband on this issue for several reasons.

First of all, your reasons for wanting to keep your son at the same preschool as your daughter all revolve around you. You know the director. You know the teachers. It’s where your friends send their kids to school. What’s best for you might not be what’s best for your son.

Second, you might remember that when your daughter first attended preschool you didn’t know the director or the teacher and you hadn’t yet made friends with the other kids’ moms. Waco is a small town, and my guess is no matter where your son attends preschool, you will probably know at least one other parent and he might know at least one child in the class.

Your husband has based his decision on your son’s individual educational needs, while you seem to be making an emotional decision based on your own desires that affect you more than your son. All kids are wired differently with unique personalities, learning styles and academic needs. Some kids do well with larger classrooms, some with more individual attention. Some enjoy tactile learning and lots of freedom, while others find that stressful and chaotic and prefer a more structured environment. As parents, it’s our responsibility to assess our kids’ learning needs and then provide the right atmosphere, not pick the atmosphere and then expect them to adapt their learning style.

Finally, you mentioned that most of your friends send their kids to this preschool so your son will easily make friends. When our kids are in preschool, it’s easy to have control over our children’s friends. But as they get older their interests change, as do their friends. I know it’s dreamy and idyllic to think your friends’ kids will be your son’s lifelong friends, but you need to be open to the fact that your son may want to spread his wings and make his own friends apart from what you have in mind.

Please know I empathize with your position. I like convenience and predictability, and I understand the emotion invested in choosing the right preschool. Yet as my husband and I navigated our way through choosing the right preschool for our older three children, we decided to send them to the place that suited their educational, emotional and social needs. Unfortunately, with three very different children, this meant three very different schools. Now we have a fourth child who will attend preschool soon, and I’m already considering a completely different option for her. Life is full of surprises.

If it were me, I would talk to your husband about three options for your son other than the preschool your daughter attended. Research those schools online. Talk to parents who currently send their kids there. Then schedule an appointment at each school to meet with the director and take a tour. If you are impressed with the school and think it might be a good fit, see if it offers a “trial run” day for your child to visit.

After doing your homework I hope you see the best fit for your son’s needs. Only then will you and your husband feel a sense of peace and find yourselves in agreement about where your son should attend preschool. Then you can have this conversation all over again for elementary school. And middle school. And high school. And college.

Dear Elizabeth,

I am recently divorced; I have one daughter in college and another one in high school. I am considering going back to school and earning my master’s degree, but I’m concerned about balancing work and school and raising my high school daughter. Should I just wait until she leaves for college?

– D.B.

Dear D.B.,

First of all, let me commend you for wanting to continue your education. Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Only you know if you should attend school now or wait until your daughter goes to college. And you didn’t mention if your daughter is a freshman in high school, a senior or somewhere in between. That might make a difference in your decision. If you decide to wait, college will always be an option in the future.

If you decide to pursue your master’s in the fall, here are some tips on balancing it all.

1) Don’t think you can do it all. Wait, you just said I could balance it all, you’re thinking. Well, I lied. No one can do it all, and no one can balance it all. At some point we all need to take stock of our lives and pare down. For instance, if you volunteer at your daughter’s school, let them know your circumstances have changed and you need to take a break from volunteering. If you are in a book club, drop out. Until your daughter goes to college, your life will consist of work, school and your daughter. Housework might slide. You will see less of your friends. But the three main priorities in your life should get your full attention.

2) Organize study time around your daughter’s schedule. If your daughter has basketball practice three nights a week, study those nights. Don’t feel pressured to sit in the stands and socialize with the other moms. Sit in the car and prepare for your upcoming exam instead. If your daughter needs to go to the library or coffee shop for a group project, let her know you’ll give her a ride as long as you can stay and study too (from a distance, of course).

3) Take advantage of weekends. While your daughter is sleeping in late on Saturday mornings or hanging out with friends Friday and Saturday nights, you can study. Write papers. Read ahead. Don’t binge watch “Parenthood” on Netflix. Don’t shop on Amazon. Stay disciplined and keep the end goal in mind. Teenagers long for freedom, and in your case, this will be a huge blessing. As your daughter gains independence and becomes more responsible, you’ll gain more time for school.

4) Create small goals with rewards. This is something fun you and your daughter can do together. Determine what grades you each want to make — all A’s, two A’s and two B’s, whatever you both decide. If you both reach your goals when report cards come out, celebrate with mother and daughter mani-pedis, dinner at your favorite restaurant or something else you enjoy. You can also create even smaller goals to keep you motivated along the way: late-night Sonic runs with your daughter when you both finish a paper, a 20-minute walk when you finish reading three chapters. Be creative and insert some joy into your journey.

As you strive for balance, remember that the most important thing is not meeting deadlines or making straight A’s but maintaining peace in your soul, your home and your family. If it were me, I would start each morning with some quiet prayer or Bible reading. I would meditate on the blessings God has given me or something he’s trying to teach me. I would take God’s peace into the chaos of the day and use it to help achieve balance and order.

Join the Conversation