By Lauren Valentine:


What Teaching Pre-K has Taught me About Being a Parent

Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, I was a preschool teacher at a great private school in Fairfax, VA. Those years spent in the classroom pre-baby have really taught me a few things about parenthood.
1. You CAN trust people with your children. I loved my job. I loved teaching, laughing and playing with the kids. I felt a connection with the families. I felt a huge responsibility not just to teach, but to love them, to guide them, to show them how to be great “little people” showing compassion and kindness. There are amazing teachers in this world who will love your children as your own, and can show them the world in a different way.
I’ve known this because I was a teacher myself, but I trust the people who take care of my baby for the brief two hours that I go to the gym. I see them play with him. I see how they interact and make each other laugh. His time spent there playing and socializing is as good for him as it is for me.
2. Kids will learn when they’re ready. I was always amazed by how much my students would grow and learn from their first day to the last day of school. Most would come in knowing their alphabet, a few numbers, and then would leave writing their full names, name the planets in the solar system and counting to 100. And though all kids learn at different paces and learn in different ways, what is true across the board is that they will learn when they are ready, not when we think they are. I’ve seen so many parents push and push and push, and then become frustrated when their child does not meet a milestone or regresses.
When having a baby, you want them to jump to the next milestone as quickly as possible. You want them to be right on track if not ahead of their development. But now with my own son, I have to remind myself that if he’s ready, he will show me. Let them be little.
3. Kids are resilient. I can’t even begin to tell you the kinds of accidents I saw on a daily basis. In my classroom, on the sidewalk, the playground. I’ve seen more scraped knees, bumped heads, and bruises than you can imagine. What some parents don’t understand is this is totally normal as part of a kid’s development. They’re testing their own limitations and learning what they can and cannot do. Of course it’s important to comfort them, but overdoing it could make them fearful and doubt themselves. Their skinned knees and bruises will heal. They will brush it off and move along.
My one-year-old has started “cruising” around the furniture in our house. With that has come lots of falls, bumps, and frustrations. I’ve tried to not jump right to his rescue (unless of course it’s a big accident) and let him know that it’s okay to fall down sometimes, and you just get right up and try again. The bruise will fade and he will be okay.
4. Kids should learn independence, at any age. Teach them by showing them. What I loved most about teaching was to show my students how to do things they could do themselves. Pulling on their pants, putting on their shoes, buttoning, zipping, etc. When they were finished playing, they’d clean up their toys. When they were done with their lunch, they’d throw it away. If we do everything for our kids, how will they ever know how to do it themselves?
My baby is only one, so of course I don’t expect him to do things on his own, but I give him the freedom to figure things out. I’ve learned the importance of “don’t teach, show” and I feel that my son learns best this way, and he can truly see what he’s capable of.
5. Every day is a new day. As a teacher of 14 three-year-olds I can tell you I’ve had some very, very trying days. The type of days where I just came home and cried. The type of days where I just wanted to crawl into a corner in the fetal position and wished the day to just be over. Yes, I had ALOT of those days. But the great thing is that every day you can start fresh. What didn’t work yesterday, might work today. And if it doesn’t, you have the opportunity to try something else.
As a new mom, I’ve also had some cry-in-the-corner, throw-in-the-towel types of days. But there’s always hope for tomorrow, and the next day. So, take a deep breath, let the crappy day go, and wake up and start over again.
I’m not a parenting expert, I don’t have a PH.D. in early Childhood Development, but being a preschool teacher has definitely helped me along this new journey through motherhood.