Preschool is a big thing at our house. Preschool? Yes, preschool.
All of the kids started preschool before their 2nd birthdays. Preschool? Yes, preschool, co-op preschool to be exact.
Now co-op preschool is not like regular preschool where you feed your kid a healthy breakfast (Pop Tart in the car) before depositing said child into the loving arms of a team of dedicated professionals before partaking in a few hours of "alone time" a few days a week. Oh, no co-op preschool is w-o-r-k. Parents have to stay, parents have to help, parents have to serve on boards and make decisions.
I have 4 cumulative years of co-op preschool (2 of which were served as a board member) under my mommy belt (nevermind the muffin top) and I could not be happier that those days are in the past.
Being able to drop my daughter off for her 3rd year of preschool makes me happier than I can describe. Seeing her, more confident than last year, spring forth from my hug and prance off to wash her hands all by herself places the most enormous of smiles on my face. And not just because I now have 2.5 child-free hours (2 if you count the commute), but because I am truly happy that she loves it so much.
I see the other moms there, hovering just outside of the gate, most of them with babies slung on their hips. They nervously observe, quietly wait until they are absolutely sure that their preschooler is okay, before walking slowly towards their cars.
Me, I'm out of there in a flash, saying a quick "good morning" to the group of younger moms before getting in my car and turning up the radio far too loud for preschooler ears. They can't do this yet, they still have babies.
I remember when my oldest was in preschool for the first time, I felt like an outcast. I was 24 pushing 25 and each and every mother was older than me by 10 years (until I recruited Linda to join, then it was a bit more even). Despite my marriage, college education and experience in childcare, they made me feel so incredibly out of place.
I stayed, for 2 years and through the birth of our 2nd baby, because I believed the experience for my child was worth it. But they never, not even when I was on the board, ever let up making me feel less than equal to them, as a mother.
I remember when the boys were able to attend preschool together for one year, because my oldest was on the young end of the spectrum and my youngest was on the older end of the spectrum, things were a bit easier. But still, the cold rush of air felt from the shoulders of the "older" mothers was as plain as day. And I vowed to never be like them, never.
I had my 3rd child when I was 30. Still, not ancient by any means, but much older than I was when I had the boys. Our first co-op preschool experience was vastly different than before, I looked around the crowded play room and saw that these moms were . . . just about the same age as I was! I saw that these moms were . . . not unfriendly or superior acting in any way, they were . . . just like me. There were even a few who were . . . younger. Shudder!
Now, as I find myself on the, a'hem, older side of all things regarding preschool, I know I am more confident, as a parent, than I was 10 years ago. I know I am more relaxed about some things based solely on the fact that we've experienced them already with my other kids. I know that she'll be okay and that I'll be okay - which doesn't mean that I don't miss her, because darn it, she is my baby.
But I simply don't care about standing around and discussing topics like Kindermusik and Gymobree, or who is going to the Touch a Truck event this weekend because, oh my gosh, that will be sooooo enriching!
Again, I'm on the outside. And, I'm perfectly fine with that because I've got 2 hours alone and I'm not going to waste it!