So there I was, dwelling in the pit of yet another highly irrational and illogical bout of extreme parenting guilt.
This time it was about the fact that I want to give my younger daughter everything that I gave/give my oldest daughter. I have an obsessive need to be tit for tat so that everything is fair and that my more easygoing little one doesn’t get the shaft.
If Big Girl went to playgroups and Acrosports then Little Girl gets to go to playgroups and Acrosports. If Big Girl regularly got dragged around town to museums and cultural events then by golly I’m going to expose Little Girl to her fair share of art.
And now my latest dilemma is preschool. In this economy, my professor spouse is facing furloughs and budget-cuts, and my grant-funded job is precarious. We are now considering enrolling our toddler in a more-affordable, funky (but still lovely) co-op next fall instead of the mid-price-range, clean little preschool on the college campus where my husband teaches.
Does this mean she will have a “less than” preschool experience? Of course not. Does this mean I’m not giving her the same opportunities? Of course not.
But there is still a highly annoying part of me that fears I am somehow slighting my wee one if I send her to a funky parent run co-operative instead of the shiny, tidy university preschool. I don’t want her to later on blame me for her subsequent adult failure to find true happiness and achievement in life by yelling, “Mom! This is your fault for sending me to the Dredlock Vegan Childcare Collective!”
Totally ridiculous, right? She’ll be fine, right? I kept telling myself that different can still be equal. That my kids don’t have to have the exact same experiences to become happy, well-rounded adults who don’t hate each other or hate me.
But then we had a crisis and something redemptive happened.
She totally collared another kid while at her current childcare. Yes, it was technically out of love, but my sweet little girl grabbed another sweet little girl by the hoodie and yanked her off her feet. When the teacher tried to talk to her about it, my little sweetie said, “It’s because I’m bad.”
Oh Lord, be still my heart. Could that sound any worse than it does right now as I write it? Worse than it looks here on my computer screen?
But this horrific self-labeling episode lit a fire under my arse and I spent the next three days doing what the teacher recommended that many second kids need. I let Rosemary call the shots. Not like refusing to brush her teeth or ride without a carseat. But I let her choose what to play at home and I actually got on the floor and played with her. When we were out and about at the playground or museum, I just followed her around so that she could be the boss.
And I showered her with specific, detailed praise to remind her that this is certainly not a “bad” girl.
We had three terrific days. And I felt like a sort of terrific mom. I know I will certainly fall down again. I will definitely do things wrong again. But those three terrific days reminded me that it doesn’t matter what shiny preschool my kid attends or whether or not she gets equal time at Acrosports or Music Together class. What matters is that she gets equal time and respect at home as a unique and wonderful individual. Equity begins at home.