My wife and I often talk about how fascinating it would be to be flies on the wall at our daughter’s Jewish preschool. It’s the ultimate parent fantasy–to see how your children behave when you’re out of sight. At home, we take delight in those few moments when our 3-year-old daughter cozies up in a corner of our apartment reading to herself; creating a story with toy figures or stuffed animals, unaware as we watch from a doorway.
As parents, we see our children in all of their many phases and moods.
And it is precisely because we are their parents that they feel
comfortable enough to scream and tantrum and test us in many ways
as they learn life’s boundaries and the limits of their autonomy
during childhood. But then (as if it’s a minor miracle) there are
those moments when our children are so sweet, inquisitive,
insightful, or loving, and I’m pretty sure this is how my daughter
behaves most of the day at preschool.
So, I want to take kvelling to the next level.
Imagine if I could be reduced to my daughter’s size and attend
preschool with her.
What fun I could have filling my days with coloring, painting, and
sculpting clay next to my daughter. We could build with blocks, read
wonderful books for the first time, and make first friends. There’s
also this thing called naptime. NAP TIME. Did you hear that? I need
more of that in my life.
I want to see her learn about the seasons, and the Jewish holidays, and
hear new words for the first time. I want to watch her get excited
about numbers and the letters of the English and Hebrew alphabets. I
want to observe her making her own challah each week and singing songs
and at circle time. I want to hear her bless things and be thankful.
I want to engage with her in pretend play and let our imaginations
guide us into new worlds.
I want to work with my daughter on expressing her emotions with words
(adults need to work on this one too), comforting a friend when they are
upset, and sharing. I want to learn all over again how to care about
others and how to care about the world.
But above all this, I want to go to preschool so I can witness my
daughter becoming a mensch.
We are having a national debate now about the importance of early
childhood education. And the evidence is in: it is crucial. I can see
from a distance, the joy and values that preschool gives my
daughter. As the administrators of my daughter’s school have noted,
the habits and traits formed in early childhood last a lifetime, and
form the basis for who my daughter will be when she is fully formed.
I want to be really filled with nachas (pride) and see this in real time
with my daughter. I want to be in the room with her at
her eye-level and be blown away by her growth as a person,
emotionally, cognitively, and in her soul.
At the very least, I can hold onto this dream while being confident
that, thanks to the wonderful teachers and administrators at my
daughter’s school, this growth is occurring out of my sight.