Why Preschool Graduation Doesn't Freak Me Out: Two Ways I'm Parenting With The End In Mind

Today is preschool graduation. I spent the morning convincing my youngest to wear her cap and gown. The only thing she he hates more than uncomfortable clothing, most all clothing really, are uncomfortable and unnecessary accessories. This cap and gown thing is pretty much worst case. 

She’s excited about graduation though. I’ve heard her sing the “Kindergarten, Here We Come” song a dozen times, even walked in on her singing it in the mirror, clearly pleased with her own performance. She’s ready for what comes next.

And you know, I think I am too.

After today, after Eve walks down a church aisle in her ridiculous cap and gown (assuming we convince her to wear it), both of my children will be school-aged.

I won’t burden you with a sentimental digression—it seems like only yesterday when…—but I will say it goes by so quickly. And so slowly. But also quickly.

What will I do with these tiny people rapidly transforming into medium-sized people, determined to grow up into big people?

I spent the second half of my morning researching acting classes for my eldest.

This is a preposterous notion—that MY child would ever take acting lessons. I can’t imagine anything more terrifying. Crazier still, that Justin Gerhardt’s child might be an actress. Justin, who was so shy as a child he had to call his mom and go home one day in kindergarten because he’d worn his pants backward and couldn’t bear going back to class—too humiliating.

We are a socially cautious pair, self aware and restrained.

But we have this daughter who is so unlike us. She’s full of energy, wild in the best way. She talks in voices and dresses like a super hero to go to the store. She doesn’t care what people think of what she wears or how she does her hair or what book she picks at the library. She is entirely herself (when she’s not pretending to be someone else).

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I started writing this morning without a clear path in mind, but what’s emerging for me as I consider my girls growing up is the reality that my job as their mother is to prepare them for the future by empowering them in the present.

My goal as London and Eve’s mom is to help them grow into the people God made them to be.

To do that, I have to:

1. See them as individuals, made by God and gifted by God uniquely.

AND

2. See them as a someday-adults, not just as a right-now kids.

Both of these tasks are terrifically hard.

Because it’s so easy to see our kids as tiny versions of ourselves. They look like us. They talk like us. But they’re not us.

So, we ought to consider them, listen to them, watch them and prod them, trying to figure out who they are and what they were made to do.

I ask my kids questions constantly. I ask questions about what makes them happy, questions about what’s hard and what’s easy, questions about their favorites and least favorites. I observe them closely in new situations. And I try to assess what it is about certain tasks or experiences that make them light up or turn off.

My goal in all of this is to put them in the best stream—to equip them for their future, helping them compensate for their weaknesses and run unfettered in their areas of strength.

That’s why I’m looking at acting classes for London instead of signing her up for soccer. We tried soccer. Her dad played soccer as a kid. Soccer’s fun for us to watch. But London was not made for soccer. That became abundantly clear at the first practice. (Eve’s not made for soccer either, at least right now. She’s going to need to get over her accessories abhorrence.) So we’re trying something else, something that seems right for her, exactly as she is.

It’s also hard to see our kids as soon-to-be adults, to parent in light of their inevitable future.

[I say this all the time, and I promise you I’m not kidding, my goal for my girls is to have them ready by the age of 14 to run a household. We are woefully behind on this plan, but still.]

We live this out by doing things that may seem a little unconventional. For example, we let London cook on the stove with supervision and we let her use a real knife to cut vegetables.

We let Eve go to the bathroom by herself as restaurants.

We make the girls clean up after themselves at dinner.

We let them play in the front yard without our needing to be present.

But it’s not just about teaching them to be independent, it’s also about training them to live out their calling.

So that means we take London to hospitals and funerals, even when she might seem out of place, because she has a clear gift of empathy and needs opportunities to train in how to use it.

With Eve, we’re exercising her gift of making friends with strangers, teaching her how to be safe and wise in addition to encouraging her to strike up conversations with our neighbors and random kids on a playground.

One day our kids will need to navigate the world without us. We want them to be ready to step into the good works God prepared ahead of time for them to do.

My sister in law asked me to write about parenting recently, and I laughed. I know she thinks my kids are great, but she’s very biased. They’re growing…

I think the reason she brought it up had more to do with my parenting attitude, meaning: I’m calm. I’m not the best parent. But I’m not freaking out.

These two priorities are the reason.

When I consider that my goal is to get my kids ready for being who they were made to be, I don’t stress out about who they are now. I realize they’re in transition. I realize we have time to make changes. Parenting is about playing the long game.

Also, when I see my kids as individuals, I learn how to parent them well. I have parenting tricks for London that don’t work for Eve. I don’t even try them on Eve. Similarly, I don’t spank London. No need. I have better tools in my belt.

Also, I don’t spend time trying to cram my kids into a box. And there’s so much freedom and peace in that. Small example: I don’t make them wear bows. London does—she loves bows. Eve doesn’t—she hates bows. Either way, I’m not fighting with my children about unnecessary head wear. Accepting your kids’ quirks eliminates unnecessary conflict.

So, for those of us who are parents, I’m convinced we need to see our kids as individuals, made by God and gifted by God uniquely, and see them as a someday-adults, not just as a right-now-kids.

These two guidelines are good for our kids, and they’re good for us. It’s a delight to have children capable of independence. And it’s so much easier to parent your children when you understand the way they work.

Okay—gotta go; it’s graduation time. And I’m excited.