My heart was racing and my mind was on overdrive. Would I be able to find the right preschool for my daughter? Would I have to sleep in my car to guarantee she got a spot? It sounded so absurd, but there I was contemplating that very thing. My anxiety eventually turned to action. (I’ll get to that in just a minute.) But, first, SPOILER ALERT! My daughter did get into a preschool, the perfect one for her and for our family. A recent conversation with one of my fellow Knoxville Moms Blog contributors reminded me of how I felt (READ: stressed) when my husband and I made that daunting decision for our firstborn. It wasn’t that long ago, after all.
We decided to send our sweet girl to preschool at age two.
Another baby was on the way and I was worried about having time for him and generally keeping my head above water. I thought there might be some eyebrows raised about sending her to preschool so soon, especially because I’m a stay-at-home mom. That didn’t bother me. Let those eyes roll. I knew what was best for her, for me and for our family. My husband and I thought two days a week for a few hours in the morning would be just right.
I started researching preschools in Knox County with the same zeal I used in my former life as a news producer.
I asked friends, searched the Internet and went to preschool fairs. I collected a giant stack of colorful pamphlets filled with pictures of happy children clearly prepared for Kindergarten and college. Then we started touring. Big schools, small schools. Close schools, far-away schools. In total, close to a dozen schools got the once-over. Sounds crazy, right? My patient husband went with me and never once complained as I scribbled down notes and referred to my list of VERY important questions. We finally submitted an application at a preschool that felt right, a cozy and safe place for our daughter to learn and spread her little wings. (The three-star state accreditation didn’t hurt.) When I got the call from the preschool that we were waitlisted I cried.
I was certain this meant she wouldn’t get into college and would lead a life of crime. Perhaps that was the pregnancy hormones, but that’s absolutely how I felt in that moment.
Then came divine intervention in, of all places, the nail salon. It can happen anywhere, can’t it? The manicurist mentioned her son’s preschool. It was literally in our backyard and I’d never heard of it! How could this be? How did I miss it? Three stars, small classes and oh-so-very close. I raced home, talked to my husband and scheduled a tour ASAP. Guess what? The school exceeded our already high expectations! Even better, there was an open spot. Would we like to sign up? YES, YES, YES!
Nearly two years later we’re preparing to sign our daughter up for her final year of preschool and sign up our son for his two-year-old preschool class all at the same sweet school that seemingly fell in our lap. (Where has the time gone?) During that time I’ve gotten some perspective on my preschool panic. Those were honest feelings about a big life change. Will their preschool prepare them to cure cancer? Walk on Mars? Achieve world peace? Who knows? But it is the perfect place for them at this very moment. I absolutely knew we made the right decision when I picked my daughter up at preschool one spring afternoon. Pickup is at four, but I always picked her up two hours early because that seemed like such a long day for someone so small. My daughter asked if I could come back in an hour to pick her up because she wanted to play with her preschool friends. My face and heart smiled and I said, “Yes, of course!”
At this very second some of you are considering the pros and cons of preschools across Knoxville and beyond. I absolutely understand your feelings of worry and panic as you send your tiny human to school for the very first time. Here’s the thing: it will be okay. How do I know this? Because you care so much about this decision. You are such an amazing mom. Now, go pick out those adorable backpacks and lunch boxes. Then go have a good cry about it, and remember, it will be okay!