My hand hovered over the link, undecided, curious; did I really want to click, find out I’d made all the wrong decisions, doomed my child to second rate choices, quashed her opportunities before she even knew she had them?
The website promised to show me top schools, enrollment in which would measurably increase the student’s entrance to high quality educational institutions later in life. We are long past the school search. We have in fact, leaped the which-high-school hurdle. Why was I so tempted to click?
Because we all want to give our children every opportunity. We want to set them on paths that will guarantee happily ever afters. We hope fervently that we can do everything - from choosing the right stimulating mobile to hang above the crib, to hand picking peers when they are already living in their first apartment - to steer our children toward the future we want for them.
Each time we have been faced with choosing the next educational step I have felt just a little desperate for a crystal ball. When we began the last round of decision making the veteran school councilor offered me (and the stack of research and brochures I had brought along which was so large it was like having another person in the meeting) some advice: choosing schools is a collaborative endeavor. The choices are myriad but can be winnowed if you pay careful attention to the child for whom you are choosing, who, depending on age, personality, and development, should also have a voice. I left that meeting feeling like Glenda The Good Witch had given me a magic phrase to mutter as I clicked the keys together and searched school websites, public, private, academic, granola, curriculum outlines, course guidelines.
This weekend in Vancouver there is not quite a crystal ball, but an opportunity to inform your whole family about the choices available in the private, independent and special need realms, as well as Montessori and Waldorf, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced Placement programs. For grades K to 12 The Private School Expo is at the Westin Bayshore Vancouver on Sunday, November 28th. In one day, under one roof you can gather information, involve your children, formulate your own questions, and seek advice as you explore the process of choosing potential educational pathways. You can register for free here: http://www.ourkids.net/expo/register.php
It is easy to become overwhelmed when considering educational choices for our kids. Easy also to allow what we want for them to overshadow what they want or envision for themselves. We need to consider the whole person and not just the future we imagine for them to fit. To do that, we need to find the right information, and then listen to our kids."
Naps didn’t happen much in our house. Not for lack of trying. There was a schedule, oh yes there was, there was the morning fresh air which meant groceries or errands or a visit to the park, or groceries and errands which culminated in a visit to the park, sometimes just groceries, park or errand, but all of the above happened on foot and with a stroller so there was fresh air and stimulation. Fresh air and stimulation being the key to naps. And schedules of course, to keep everything running on track. All the books talked about the importance of schedules.
Sometimes, not often because sleep was never my baby’s first choice, but every now and again my baby fell asleep in the stroller. The old Greek ladies in my neighbourhood looked askance at me when I’d prod the little sleepyhead awake and sing loud songs to her so that she’d stay up until we got home for naptime. Because there would be naptime, I was sure of it. All the books said there would be naptime. I was desperate for naptime.
So I followed the rules, no extra-curricular sleeping, lots of air and stimulation, a nice lunch at a regular hour and then books, a quiet cuddle and … naptime! But not often. Often there was just frustration for both of us.
Naptime was in fact almost more stress than it was worth - the reading a book, and then another one because there was still no sign of sleepiness, the oh please settling, the tiptoeing out, the MAD SCURRY BECAUSE OH MY GOD A NAP, and then the inevitable up again so soon – often there was just frustration for us both. I would end up half-showered, the laundry un-switched and quickly becoming fetid, with the baby much the same; damp, bothered, and crying* to have been abandoned like that to fret alone in her crib, both of us feeling like we had failed at something expected of us.
I learned to set up stations around the house – a quiet place, a bouncy place (God bless the Jolly Jumper, friend to mothers & their laundry piles everywhere), a reading place. The crib became a play place and maybe a sleep place. Or maybe not. Things got done. I just stopped waiting for naptime to allow me to do them.
We all lived, mostly napless, happily ever after.
* A special footnote about the crying:
You know about shaken baby syndrome. They make sure before you leave the hospital that you know about SBS. What they don’t tell you, or more accurately perhaps, what you don’t believe will really happen, is that you will be tested, you will be sleep deprived and desperate beyond reason to help your baby to sleep, nurse, settle. You will sing, walk, rock, feed and bounce for endless periods of time just so your baby will. stop. crying. You will do this over and over and over.
And yet, they will cry. So will you. In fact, you need to cry. And you need to take a moment for yourself. Even if there are no naps and no settling for hours on end and you feel like you are failing every chapter of the How To Be A Good Mother Handbook.
Over 3,600 knitted purple baby caps have been collected in British Columbia in support of a new program encouraging mothers to take a moment for themselves. On November 22, 2010 those caps will be distributed by volunteers, moms, students and knitters at a public knit–in at BC Children’s Hospital to raise awareness for the Period of PURPLE Crying: A New Way to Understand Your Baby’s Crying. Participate if you can, or simply reach out to your friend, brother, sister, niece, or neighbour with a baby and help spread the word.
The time has shifted, the darkness has settled close. It is night-dark by the time I’ve finished boiling water for the afternoon tea. The leaves, which just last week made a gorgeous glow over Vancouver’s streets and parks are now gathering in gutters and empty wading pools where they will collect washed-away worms and grit until spring.
I grew up on the other end of Canada, where fall was a crisp affair with rosy cheeks and glowing maple trees gone Group Of Seven picturesque. Here in the West, fall is a shrug. If we are lucky, the leaves flame yellow and orange for a week or so and then slip from the trees after a few pewter-coloured rainy afternoons.
Fall in the East is sweaters and scarves. I remember scuffing home along leaf-littered streets, flinging chestnut grenades and armloads of orange and red confetti.
Fall in the West is rubber boots and rain jackets. Toddlers zipped into vinyl all-in-one slickers turn slow happy circles in boot-high puddles. They hop and splash and look for all the world like fallen fruits: grapes, apples, watermelons bobbing merrily in the water.
I rake leaves and feel homesick for the bright fall I knew growing up. My West Coast child's very earliest vocabulary included words for rainy days. As I stoop and swing, I think about the geography of home - the landscape which is imprinted on our sense memories, the one which rises unbidden and whispers your own past back to you. What will she remember of this?
Gathering armloads of leaves, smelling their furtive mushroomy damp along with the tang of fern and moss and yearlong green, I pause and gloat for a moment about the lack of snow. Tamping down the leaves in the compost, watching the gathering dusk settle in the rododendron, along cedar hedges and in the nooks of nearby mountains I wonder if just maybe the West Coast's dark autumn might make a perfect mulch for the growing of memories.
Autumn Scene by Tom Thompson"