Tonight, we went to an engagement party for J’s high school girlfriend (which gave me an awesome response to “How do you know X?” – “I’m her ex-boyfriend’s wife.”) I really love weddings and wedding-like celebrations – it’s so fun to watch people who are in love and are about to make/just made a huge commitment to each other. I love the happiness, the caring, the gazing into each others’ eyes, the stolen kisses and other cute public displays of affection. And now that I’m married myself, it also brings me back to my own wedding and lets me relive it a little bit.
This celebration was particularly fun because a close friend of J’s was there with her toddler, who we haven’t seen in almost a year. It’s always amazing to me how fast kids grow and change. Last time we saw her, she was just learning to speak in single words, while tonight she was extremely articulate and asking her mother to let her go play with “the baby” – who was only a little over a year younger, but was in a drastically different place developmentally.
I grew up going to public schools, and I have a lot of public school pride. Of course, I was lucky enough to grow up living in a wealthy suburb with fantastic public schools. But I firmly believe in the mission of public schools: to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to learn, no matter who they are, where they live, or what their socioeconomic status is. That’s why I teach in a public school.
Unfortunately, not all public schools are succeeding at this, and schools in urban areas tend to be worse at educating their students than other schools. Which is a dilemma for me, because I like living in urban areas, and I want to send my future children to public schools, but I also want to make sure that my children get the best education possible. And unfortunately, many urban public schools are not currently meeting my standards for the schools I want my children to attend.
This article in the New York Times really struck a chord with me. I truly believe that having diverse schools, with students from various socioeconomic, racial, and cultural backgrounds, is beneficial to everyone at the school. But it’s not necessarily academically beneficial to children like mine will be – children with educated, relatively wealthy parents who will be starting school with skills that their less advantaged peers will not have. So someday, J and I will probably have to make a choice between living in the city and sending our students to our local public school. I’m hoping we can at least put that choice off until after elementary school, since there are usually some strong elementary schools in urban areas. But once you hit middle and high school, it seems like there’s a steeper and steeper divide between the education you can get at an urban public school versus a suburban public school or a private school. Still, I’m glad to hear that there are other parents wrestling with this same challenge, because maybe if the more advantaged parents in the city can band together like this, we can work on improving our local public schools to the point where they are providing a really good education to all of their students – ours included.
On Monday, J and I tagged along to a Memorial Day Barbecue being thrown by a friend of a friend, and found ourselves adrift in a sea of toddlers. Which was fantastic – I can’t imagine a better way to spend the day.
Toddlers may actually be my favorite age. They’re so curious about everything, and so easily excited and interested and fascinated by things, because everything is so new to them. Plus – bonus – they’re still small enough that you can easily pick them up and set them down someplace else when you need to. I know they also throw some pretty intense tantrums when they’re not happy, but watching them learn how to engage with the world around them more than makes up for those low points, in my opinion. Of course, I don’t have kids of my own yet, so my opinion may change when I’m spending more than a few hours at a time with a toddler. But I don’t think it will.
One of the fun things about the barbecue was that J and I had the chance to see a whole bunch of different parenting styles in action. There was one couple who scolded their child every time she picked anything up that she might even be considering putting in her mouth, and ran to catch her any time she neared a muddy area. On the other end of the spectrum, our hosts let their twin boys explore everything, and they spent most of the barbecue playing in the bucket of water and ice that held the drinks. By the end of the afternoon, they were soaked, muddy, and had put almost every can or bottle into their mouths at one point.
The high point of the afternoon (at least as far as the toddlers were concerned) seemed to be when J was conned into giving out wagon rides in one of these. What he didn’t know when he started was that the kids would never tire of being pulled around in it, no matter how many times they circled the very small front yard. Luckily, when he was ready to be done, an older sister stepped up to be the wagon driver. Sucker.