He walked up the steps in excitement, taken aback by the colors; painted self-portraits and paper mâché art pieces. Kaevon was on his way to a new school in less than four months but to a five-year old, four months means tomorrow, or next week, and I had to tell him to wait his time – a concept he has yet to grasp. He reveled in the sound of older children playing in a foreign yet highly interesting place, a gymnasium, and shied away from the faces of teachers he’d become familiar with for the next few years of his life. His feelings fluctuated with every floor we went on and with every page I flipped and filled out that he recognized had his name on it. I couldn’t believe I actually registered him for kindergarten, a milestone in his life as a child and mine as a parent. He couldn’t see it but his Mommy was overwhelmed with emotions – good ones.
I couldn’t say the same for the parents I met two weeks later (earlier this week) at a kindergarten orientation. Almost all of the parents in attendance had bought their children, who were full of energy, amazed at the books in their soon-to-be new library just as Kae had been prior. We toured the building and observed the classrooms the children would be in for a year. The parents seemed more confused than the children looking at the walls and I realized why towards the end of the event.
The parents had the floor for an open Q&A session yet no one, in all of their perplexity, had a question for the women who would be teaching our children during this major transition in their lives. What? I had several, one including a brief overview of the kindergarten curriculum. The answer? Our children needed to recognize a minimum of 50 sight words, be able to count to 100, be able to read a book in its entirety and learn the basics of mathematics, at least.
Why?Why so much? Isn’t that for a second-grade class?
The first of only two questions asked by someone other than myself for the remainder of the orientation. Although I was the youngest parent in attendance, I was already informed on New York State’s common core standards – the other parents however, were not. Several parents had begun to ask about placing their child in a special education class, few were adamant about it, stating their child would not be able to perform to the state’s or school’s level. The heat outside sickened me but the parents who obviously did not believe in their children, nauseated me even more.
This is what bothers me – a lot of people don’t believe in investing time into what they love anymore. Everyone thinks that things are just supposed to happen and happen easily. People think that their children are just going to “get it”, with little to no effort needed to be made on the part of the parent. People think that relationships are just “supposed to work” off of the strength that love exists. You have women out here thinking that because a man invested money into a bad ass rock for the left hand that he’s fully invested and committed to her. The “ring makes the marriage” ; the “love will save the relationship.”; “only teachers are the children’s educators.” Some of y’all have it all wrong.
To invest is to devote time and energy (and of course, money) into something or someone with the expectation that something profitable, something of quality, something beneficial will be produced in the long run. I for one know how hard it is to find time to do homework with my children, but I do it, not because I want to, but because I have to. As a woman who laid down and made the decision to have a child, it is my responsibility to do what I have to to make sure my children are the very best beings they can be while on this planet. If I want them to excel personally and academically, I sacrifice and put in the time. If I want to be one of those parents who can proudly say my boys did X, Y and Z, I want the plaques and certificates on the wall to show you better than I can tell you. I need to put in the work. My child’s first teachers are his parents, his school teachers are secondary.
Before my partner goes out and spends money on a ring, I want him to invest in me. Sure the ring can signify a lot of things but before I want something I can see, I want to feel that I’m loved, I matter, we’re in this shit for the long haul. The time you spend with me outweighs the money you spent; splurge on me emotionally because at this point in my life, everything else comes afterwards. The material is nice, but what you can do to and for me mentally is better. Intellectual investments – that’s what matters.
So, you prefer your kid to have the finer things of a five-year old’s life, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but where are they mentally? Can they recite the alphabet before they can a Nicki verse? They know about Jordans but haven’t the slightest clue on how to spell their name. Are your preferences overshadowing your priorities?
I need for mothers and fathers to quit thinking the job is simple, that the job of equipping your child with the tools he or she needs to reach their full potential is solely on the school teacher. The teacher gets paid but your obligation is priceless. If you don’t even believe your kid can do great things, be great things, please know that that child will grow up a confused adult that doesn’t know the value and power of investing, in others, and more importantly, in himself. I see it everyday and instead of blaming the education system, the neighborhood, on peer pressure, on other people, I remember the first role models a child has – the parents.