The lil boss starts preschool tomorrow. It’s really a glorified term for “regular play dates”, but yes, my 18 month-old is starting preschool and what the heck was I thinking when I signed him up for one?!
As I told Minion Two, this is the beginning of the end. Up to this point, we’ve had reasonable control over the lil boss’ environment – his clothes, his toys, his collection of books, his access to music, his living conditions: all these reflect our values, our priorities and our aspirations for him. Both his toys and books are kept as gender-blind and colour-blind as possible; his ang-pao money is squirreled away and 10% is always taken off for a charity of choice; he has no access to any screen for now.
Once he enters school, he will start having experiences that we will not be part of any more. He will taught by people who may not share my views about steering clear of gender stereotypes (Minion Two has learnt to let me have my way, haha) and he will interact with friends who would have grown up in vastly different home environments. He will have stories that he will eventually learn to tell, and he will develop thoughts that we now have to learn to pry out of him.
That is at once exciting and terrifying. From this point we have to start letting go bit by precious bit. What can we do if he picks something up that we do not agree with or like? A habit, an idea, an accent, a form of language? What can we do if he starts yearning for something we cannot or do not wish to provide?
I write to remind myself now. I subscribe to the philosophy that, well, you just have to balance that with your own home-based education. You have to be a model of your philosophy, your values, your ideals and let the kids compare that with all the other models they come in contact with, and you hope that you have been exemplary enough to stand up against the competition. I do not believe in censorship – you do not keep your children away from ideas and concepts that you disagree with short of the physically harmful (I draw a line at allowing a kid access to cigarettes and drugs). As tempting as it is to prescribe and limit, let me remember that it’s more difficult but ultimately more rewarding to suggest and open up the doors.
I will forget that from time to time, I’d bet, but that’s my statement of aspiration on the eve of opening the first door for the lil boss. It brings to mind some lines from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, that offered advice on children:
You may give them your love but not your thoughts
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.