This post is in proud partnership with Pre-K for PA, whose goal is to advocate for increased access to pre-k for 3- and 4-year-old kids in Pennsylvania. But this story? It’s oh-so-preciously mine. Learn more about partnership disclosures here.
He wore jeans and blue top, accessorized with a hand-picked orange tote bag and a smile I hadn’t seen on him in months.
My 3-year-old son asked me to put on his favorite song in the car and bopped his head to the sound of the beat hard enough to get his sisters dancing too, but not too hard to move the styled-with-gel-for-the-first-time-ever hair on his head.
It was finally his turn, and he was feeling every ounce of the joy on the short, 6-minute drive to what used to be his big sister’s preschool, but now was going to be his.
Not a nerve triggered in him.
The dude was just READY.
I was excited for him, but also worried about how he would do.
The start of his preschool journey was during that “foggy” period of young motherhood when details are hard to recall.
I was a mom of 5-, 3- and 1-year-old kids when days were a constant see-saw of trying to give all kids the attention they needed. While I quietly wished for octopus arms, I would stir a bowl of mac and cheese for “hangry” toddlers with one hand, I’d hold hold and console a crying baby in the other.
My little man often got left in the same “middle” that his birth order left him in.
Most of his days were spent getting in and out of a car to trek my oldest back and forth to school or an activity. In the moments we weren’t doing that, he was impatiently waiting for me to stop rocking the baby to sleep so he could have time with me. Despite all of the ways I tried to balance the attention, it never seemed like I could do enough for him.
He was angry. He was defiant. He just seemed… unhappy. I loved him with every thread of me, but I was using one of those threads to simply hang on by as I tried to navigate it all.
So when it was time for preschool, I worried I hadn’t taught him enough already.
I worried his tantrums would transfer over to school.
I worried he wouldn’t listen.
I worried his teachers would wonder if we were doing enough for him.
But a couple of weeks into the semester, we had a conference with his teacher. As she rattled off all the ways he was excelling, all the ways he was kind and all the ways he brought joy to the classroom… I just… CRIED.
Because I felt the positive changes at home, too.
School had given him a new sense of calm. Of confidence. Of PRIDE that something was HIS.
It also allowed us to bond in a unique way as HE was the one who got to share playground stories and be proud to show the work he had done as we opened his folder on the living room floor every time we got home. We would practice writing his name together. He would tell me about how well he did hanging up his coat and book bag without being asked. It allowed HIM to have time that he didn’t have to share with his sisters to allow his own voice to shine.
I shared all of this with his teacher who assured me that I wasn’t the only one who has felt that way. She reminded me that I was a young mom of three, and that doing the best I can was enough. She pointed out how fast he would run to me every day when I came to pick him up.
But I will forever be grateful to that preschool for the way they played a role in helping shift my son’s spirit. How much he learned that year. How much he GREW that year. How much we grew together and how much I learned about myself.
And today every time he runs to me from the bus with arms open wide… and how he drops random “I love yous” and tells me he’s so happy I’m his mom … I’m reminded of that that mom who worried if she was doing enough.
And I wish I could go back and tell her she was doing more than that.
Preschool played a vital role in all three of our children’s educational, social and personal growth. We were fortunate to have the means necessary to put our children in this position to be at a preschool with a strong curriculum and compassionate teachers, but unfortunately, not all families can. In fact, only 40% of eligible 3- and 4-year-old kids in Pennsylvania have access to a high quality, publicly-funded Pre-K.
Pre-K for PA was launched in 2014 with the goal of advocating for increased access to pre-k for 3- and 4-year-old kids in Pennsylvania. Driven by the knowledge that a child’s brain is 90% developed by age five, Pre-K For PA is currently advocating that by 2022, every at-risk child will have access to a high-quality pre-K program.