Monday, August 18, 2008

Why is everyone in such a rush to send my girls to school?

On Shabbat I was asked four times about sending the girls to school. This follows numerous other inquiries from people (many times from the same people) over the past year. The last one was from someone who told me that it would be easier for me to send them to school. Since when is being a parent easy? When did it become common practice for a parent to put their needs above their children? And is that really the way to go?

Now, don't get me wrong, I understand families where there isn't the ability to have a parent or relative stay home with the children need school. I also understand that there are situations where the parent needs a bit of free time and the children need a bit of interaction with other children. But that isn't really the case here. (Okay, I wouldn't mind some free time and I would love my knitting night back, but I know that as the day shortens and Mincha and Arvit are earlier that I will get them back.) But look at our situation.

The girls go to classes during the week. This coming year we will be taking an art class as well as Shabbat class and likely doing some playdates since the girls are listening to me better and not pulling runners. I have added a "me day" to the calendar every other week when the housekeeper is here on Tuesday. At nap time I take off by myself for a couple hours. Yes, it is hard and I do find myself daydreaming about sending the girls to school after a particularly hard day.

Now let's look at the idea of sending the girls off to school. First of all, it would cost roughly $5,100 a year for all the girls. I could easily use that chunk of cash to arrange for babysitters (for free time for me) or a second pair of hands for day trips and to join the local AP group for some of their field trips. Secondly, which school do I put them in? A structured Montessori-type of environment that Batya would thrive in? A more loosly structured environment with a lot of physical activities and explorations for Shira? Something a bit more arty for Chaya? What about the fact that they cry for each other when their sister(s) are napping upstairs? Do I ignore that and send them to separate schools?

And what about me? I spent four long years trying to have children. Now I have them and I'm not getting any younger. I'd still like more. Soon (G-d willing) it won't be just me and the girls. Shouldn't I get this time to enjoy them? To see first-hand when they do something new. To help them learn something. To hear Batya's exclamation of, "I did it!" when she figures something out.

I'm blessed to be able to stay home and share in these small miracles. This time isn't going to last forever. Someday they will be running off to play with their friends and leaving me behind. (They've already started by occassionally eating Shabbat lunch with other people by their own choice.) Someday I'll (G-d willing) have another baby to care for and not be able to spend as much time with them. Why should I rush to push them into school when I don't really need to?