Perspective

March 02,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

We love traditional sayings and folklore expressions at our house. Sayings are easy for L.--and for children in general--to grasp. They are comforting, short, pack a lot of meaning into a few words, and are easily remembered. We have a saying for almost everything around here. Things like: A place for everything, and everything in its place. Two heads are better than one Where there's life, there's hope If at first you don't succeed...try, try again And this one we've been using quite a lot lately: If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb. Which is exactly what it did. Lion ************** We officially laid to rest weeks and weeks of agonizing decision-making and registered T. at our local base school. Telling L.'s current school that we were turning down sibling status for T. was easier than I thought it would be, but still there was that knot in my stomach--the what-if feeling that follows weighty decisions. When I left L.'s school, the heft of the decision seemed to follow after me, pulling at my feet and making every step I took away from the school seem fraught with symbolism. (It didn't help any that the lady behind the front desk took a big binder off the shelf and crossed T.'s name off a list.) Did we do the right thing? Were our instincts to be trusted? Were we blinded by a lack of perspective? Oh god...what did we do? Did we just make a horrible, irrevocable mistake? I don't know what's happened to me lately, but in the past year or so I've had trouble making huge, child-related decisions and letting go of the angst about whether we made the right ones. What I've also realized is that it's impossible to gain a clear perspective about parenting decisions when you're right in the thick of them. I'm the kind of person who likes to see the clear results of decisions right away, and it's been hard to accept that sometimes you have to wait years before you can figure out whether you made the right one. Decisions like when to send my child to kindergarten, or what school would work best for her, or whether to trust my gut feelings just don't seem so black and white anymore--and I'm not going to get quick, clean results. And no matter how hard we try to keep the needs of both children separate, viewing them as individuals with their own particular learning styles and approaches to life, past experiences have had a way of spilling over into our current decisions, coloring them in not very pleasant ways. So meanwhile, the doubts about school-related decisions continue to surface. This past weekend we went to a festival at T.'s future elementary school. We had fun snooping around the classrooms and roaming the hallways. We peered through the windows into the media center--impressive and huge compared to the one at L.'s school. Then we stopped by a third-grade classroom, where they had a temporary tattoo stand. As T. was getting her butterfly tattoo, the teacher there smiled at her. "Is she four?" the teacher asked us. "No, five!" I answered proudly. "She'll be starting kindergarten here this fall." The woman's eyes widened. "Five?" "She's just petite," I hastened to add. "Is she ready for kindergarten?" The woman asked, and honestly, I don't think I imagined the skepticism in the woman's voice. "Um...YES," I answered, but I felt myself waver, just a little bit. Did the woman see something I didn't? Was T. ready? Would she be too small physically to hold her own? Should we hold her back another year? My god!...we hadn't thought about that. Why didn't we think about that? And then I had to leave the room, because suddenly my perspective had been sucked right out of me. I think I need a long vacation to get it back again. I think I know where I can find my perspective: on a beach somewhere, under a big blue uncluttered sky.