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Preschoolceived Notions: Choosing a Preschool for Your Child Means Getting Realistic

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These milestones just keep on coming! Last week we registered Coraline for preschool. She had been wait-listed at Little Feet since she was about one, with no guarantee she’d make it in at all, so when I saw the name on my caller ID two weeks ago I literally jumped up and down. One friend keenly pointed out that given the place’s reputation, you walk in expecting some magical, sparkly Disneyland, with singing birds flitting about overhead and talking woodland creatures frolicking to and fro. Of course, it is not this way, though it is colorful and clean and run by a woman who seems endlessly sweet and patient. As we approached the white picket fence surrounding the play area outside, Coraline threw her arms in the air and said “I’m so happy to be here!” Inside, she met the classroom pets, fed some baby dolls, and played a game with the director. She didn’t want to leave.

Her dad and I (all but forgotten) watched wistfully as she ran excitedly about, and after a few minutes of half-hearted deliberation we registered her — it was the obvious conclusion. But as we left I felt a sort of nagging insecurity about the decision. It had nothing to do with how the school is — or how well I think Coraline will do there — but rather what it is not. Just as I envisioned a home free of plastic toys, television, and sugar, I thought any child of mine would go to a Montessori or Waldorf school, full of wooden toys  and other wild-eyed, hippie children. But my daughter’s Little House on the Prairie educational experience has gone the way of seemingly every other preconceived notion I’ve had about parenthood (plastic, television, and sugar included). Because, as we all know, the parent you end up being is very different than the one you plan to be.

As I’ve listened to other moms talk about their children’s preschools, I started to learn that what ends up mattering the most is whether or not your toddler is ultimately being taught kindness and inclusivity. These lessons are not exclusive to (nor guaranteed with) alternative education, but they are of primary importance at Little Feet; it is a perfect fit for our family. In light of this reality, I have to accept that my momentary “buyer’s remorse” had less to do with letting go of Coraline, and everything to do with letting go of the mom I fancied myself to be.

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