Pink Laundry: Choosing a school was an education in itself

Years of planning ahead didn't translate to being prepared when it came time to make the big decision

It seems like just yesterday  that we carried  our firstborn into the School Board office to decide her fate.

Little Miss Molly was just three months old and we were your typical first-time parents — nervous, anxious and terrified  of making any wrong decisions that would negatively affect her future.

Would our pint-size Picasso grow up to be an artist? Well, she sure loved to make a masterpiece out of her strained peas and carrots.  With that in mind we eagerly checked  the box signing her up for Langley Fine Arts School.

“What about French Immersion?”  I suggested to my husband Jason.

“Oui,” he replied, ticking off that box, too.

“You’re right,” I said. “Who knows, she might want to travel abroad for her semester in college or maybe grow up to be an airline hostess?”

There was also the Fundamental School and Montessori program on the list. Check and check.

Neither of us knew anything about the latter two schools, but figured there was no point in limiting our bambina’s educational potential.

During the drive home,  we talked non-stop about which school we’d eventually settle on for our daughter when the time came.

“Don’t stress honey, we don’t have to worry about that for a long time,” laughed Jason.

Fast forward to five years later — five of the fastest years of our lives — and there we were in a time crunch, trying to decide which school to send our future Kindergartner to.

And since we registered her for school practically straight out of the womb, there was no shortage of options.

“What do we do?” I asked just a week shy of her first official school day.

Despite deciding over the summer on one of the ‘choice schools’ from that list, made five years earlier, I found myself awake in the wee hours of the night stricken with crippling ‘choice anxiety.’

Had I made the right decision opting for the Fundamental School? We had heard nothing but rave reviews about it from parents and former students, but I wasn’t so sure.

Going there would mean committing to driving Molly and eventually her little sister, Zoe, to and from school, across town, for the next 12 years. There is no before or after- school-care on site nor school bus service, which would make ever re-entering the workforce near impossible.

Play dates would become complicated — would we still hear those little knocks at the door from schoolmates sporadically popping by to play?

There would no wading in puddles and collecting rocks, pinecones and colorful leaves as we had every afternoon en route to preschool the last two years.

Once winter arrived, we’d also have to brave icy roads — just the mere sight of a snowflake already gives me the chills.

And yet, even with all this in mind, I felt paralyzed with anxiety — doubt that kept me up into the wee hours, making me second guess our choice. Maybe I was just being lazy? Or was I selfish? Perhaps a combination of the two?

One thing I have learned is that parenting is a tough job and there is no one-size-fits all answer — this is especially true when it comes to choosing a school.

When in doubt, I did what many daughters in turmoil do.

I called my mom.

Growing up in a low-income single-parent family, we moved. A lot.

For myself, it  meant being the new kid a grand total of eight times, which wasn’t always the easiest hat to wear.

None of those schools were  ‘choice,’ but they fit the bill for a hard-working full-time cashier who  didn’t have the luxury of driving her offspring to and from school every day. Nor did she have the choice of living in a more affluent neighbourhood.

“You went to regular schools and look how you turned out?” said my mother during a late-night phone call.

“Life is hard enough, why make it more complicated?

“I really think you’re over-thinking this, Kristyl.”

It wasn’t until I was dropping Molly off for her first day at her neighbourhood school that I realized mom was right — I’m not just talking about my own mother.

“Mommy, all my friends from preschool are here and they have a library and water fountains, too!” exclaimed our little scholar, who was grinning from dimple-to-dimple when I picked her up from her first day of Kindergarten.

On the way home she skipped through the puddles and waved to her new friends who we discovered live in our complex.

Perhaps it was time I started trusting my own maternal instincts rather than second-guessing every single thought, every ‘choice.’

Well, at least until it’s time to start filling out post secondary applications.

Kristyl Clark is a stay-at-home-mom and founder of the family blogazine, She’s a Valley Mom