The Choice of Privilege
Sometimes it can be easy to forget the privilege that is choice. We look at what people have and what people do and who they have become but we forget too often that many times these are the results of choice. Choice for many of us really begins at the age of adulthood. For some of us that is earlier and for some it comes later. For all of us there is a choice when we become parents. Many different choices are made when a person finds out that they have become a parent but a choice none the less is made and from that point on choice is forced to be a part of who we are. In raising another life there are choices every day. There are choices about prenatal care, postnatal care, food given, diapers used and parenting styles imprinted. All of these choices make up not only who we are as parents but also who our children will become. Within the work I do, I speak with many families about the choices they have made leading up to their child’s early years. These choices range from exposure to technology and social activities to scheduling requirements for food, sleep and behavior. In every parent I have spoken to, regardless of the choices made I find a a similarity. That similarity is the fear or choice itself. Being a parent is not easy, we all know that. Regardless of what the hard times are, there are hard times. Middle of the night illness, life stresses that come between you and your parenting abilities and perhaps even just life in general.
One of the most powerful pieces of each of us parents is our ability to choose. We have been given the gift of guiding our children through their younger years in a way that sets them up to be the adults we wish them to be and the adults we wish for the world at large. So how do we do this and why is it so decisive to make one choice or another? In this article I want to focus on the choice of preschool and kindergarten, the path or educational philosophy and public versus private education. Our generation of parents grew up with a very different model for early education care. Public school and daycare settings were seen as the normal route in which the majority of children would grow and learn. The very few and fortunate were able to afford the best care settings or perhaps private nanny situations and private schools for their children. Our generation was one of the last to see a normalized view of basic childcare/public education. The generation we are raising has a unique and decisive mix of experiences. Childcare is no longer seen as a placeholder in the early years. The more research that is done and the more educated we become as child advocates the more we learn about the need to support a child’s early years of development with the most deliberate of intentions.
My husband works for NASA, he is an incredibly smart and educated man. He grew up in a small, poor and uneducated Michigan town and went to public school until he applied for and was accepted on a scholarship to a private engineering school just outside of Detroit. From there he applied and was accepted with a scholarship into the graduate program at the University of Colorado Boulder and went on to work for NASA following his earning a masters in Aerospace. I was raised in Santa Barbara, California and attended private school through 5th grade until I decided I wanted to attend public High School. My family was very poor but my mother worked in private education and so my tuition was free. I went on to apply and be accepted as an undergraduate at the University of Colorado Boulder and then applied to and was accepted as a graduate student at the University of Colorado Denver. We are both successful, smart and affluent adults living in one of the most desired towns in the country. So when our daughter was ready for school we sat down and had some decisions to make, we wanted to know; does it matter? Does the beginning really make a difference? My husband a product of public school and I a product of private school. Do our children need to be sent to a school in their early years that costs us between $10k and $20k a year? It is a choice.
In the world we live today there are a plethora of choices for where to send our children to school starting when they are six months old. There is value in almost everything we expose our children to at a young age. If the choice is made to keep your child home until they begin kindergarten they will gain experiences and knowledge that children who are placed in care at six weeks will never gain and vise versa. This is true for every age. They are all choices. We as parents make choices based off of who we are, who our children are and who we want our family to be. Sometimes those choices are forced by time, schedule or money and sometimes they are forced by our internal wants and desires for our children and for our family. No choice is wrong, I want to ensure that every parent reading this understands that when another person judges your decision as a parent it is most likely because of their own insecurity surrounding the choices they are making or unable to make. We as parents are all insecure, we all fear that the decisions we have made are the wrong ones for our children. It is okay to doubt, it is okay to care too much. I want to advocate for the fact that the decision to place your child in a care setting, at any age is a choice like any other. The more you know, the better you will feel about what choices you are making. I urge you to not go into the decision about where to send your child to school without knowledge and education. I advocate for educating yourself or reaching out and asking for education on the schools in your area, the philosophies being taught, the social and emotional support being offered and the aspects of each academic facility in your area.
I want to leave you with this thought. Think about how much time you have spent in the cereal isle, the shampoo isle or the prenatal care section educating yourself about the ingredients of a product, the care of the company making the product or the motto of what the product stands for. Translate this same care of what you put in and on your body into what is being put in and on your child’s young mind. Empower yourself, learn more, ask questions and make sure that your child’s school is not just the best school but ensure that it is the best school for them. It is a choice, it is a privilege or choice and both you and your child/children deserve it.
I am a mother, not a wizard. I share what is hard, what is scary and what is real. The rest I leave to you.