We moved, roughly 25 miles up the interstate, at the end of last summer. Life was made a little harder on my wife (longer commute) but has been much better for the family as a whole, I believe. Our reasons for moving were roughly three-fold:
1. We were living on top of one another. In a cramped townhome where an entire floor was essentially a no-fly zone due to a cat with a temperment issue. We spent most of our waking hours cooking, eating and "playing" in approximately 400 square feet of space. No deck. A lousy, minuscule, damp, rocky and obnoxiously loud back yard. A parking lot for a front yard. No escape. No elbow room.
2. The neighborhood was deteriorating (not that it was ever a picturesque place) and semi-violent crime was on the increase. A local hispanic gang had started targeting homes for break-ins and there was some non-fatal violence...but these things typically escalate as the group gets bolder. We just didn't feel safe.
3. Kindergarten/School district.
I guess, when you boil it all down, #2 begat the situation for #3. The local elementary school, while reasonably "good" on a scholastic scale, was a disaster in terms of socio-economics. Please understand, I am all for diversity, and want my kids to be exposed to all shapes, sizes, colors and sounds. The ethnicity of the schools' attendees were not at issue. The safety of my girls, and the involvement of the community that supported the school were. It was a den of problems. Old and run-down. A very high percentage of kids who did not speak English as a first language, and not at all at their homes. We wanted to be able to provide more for our daughters.
We had talked about the possibility of getting them into the elementary school across the parking lot from their daycare center (one of the best schools in the county...and that is saying something), but we knew that there were to be no guarantees in this regard. To be sure of a better situation, we had to bite the bullet, take an enormous loss on our house (did I mention the crappy housing market?) and find a new place to call home.
So, we did. A big single-family house with a large back yard and a quiet neighborhood. Solidly middle-class families that fed into a fairly new elementary school with a very good reputation. A school, I might add, which has a very diverse ethnic population (way more diverse than where I grew up...there you were either a hick or a yokel...now, I'm "Dr" Yokel). We had done it!
This brings us to last week: we filled out the paperwork. Our little girl has been registered for Kindergarten. A momentous occasion in any parent's life I suppose. But that, in and of itself, is not what has had me thinking lately. It isn't that I'm not ready for her to go to school yet either. No, it's that I'm not sure SHE is ready to go to school.
Oh, sure, in many ways she's just fine. She handles social situations very well, and is certainly smart enough (this is always a weird area to talk about for me...I know she's smart, but all parents think their kids are smart...and I hate getting into mental pissing contests or having to tone down my pride in my daughter). She befriends EVERY teacher she has EVER had under ANY circumstance (this could get her in trouble later on, when her classmates give her the old "teacher's pet" business...but that'll be her problem).
The thing is, I think she still needs her mother and I in a way that her younger sister has already kind of moved past. Today, for instance, I had to stay home with her (because she had a stomach thing and couldn't be away from a bathroom for too long) and the entire day she was glued to my hip. Sure, it's made worse by her feeling ill, but in general she won't do anything around the house without either my wife or I in the same room.
We built the kids a playroom in the basement and stuffed it with toys and books and crafts and decorated it all in Disney. The youngest will happily traipse down the stairs and play. Paige, however, requires one of us to be down there with her. She'd rather go down and bring up a toy to play with than actually play in her own play-place.
And, back to the illness issue: I changed her PJs three times today and her underwear four times. She just couldn't make it to the facility the first couple of times she had to purge (both ends, I know...nice visual). School is only 5.5 months away...should she be able to do this by now? Do teachers/nurses at an elementary school do what I did for sick kids while their parents are en route?
I don't know. I can't seem to get my point out tonight. I know the "sick" thing is only an occasional issue. I'm not interested in her zooming through her childhood, but I DO want her to be ready for the next step in her blossoming young life. She's probably going to be fine. Maybe it really is me at the root of the issue. Maybe she's just a needy kid sometimes. What's wrong with that? I'm all in for hugs from her for LIFE (got that Mr "boyfriend" guy who's reading this 19 years from today while thinking about giving her that diamond burning a hole in your jacket pocket?) - so why am I wishing she'd detach?
Life was certainly easier without kids...though, to be sure, much less interesting and invisibly incomplete.
Good luck in 5 months Paigey...Daddy loves you.