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What it’s like to go back to school the same day your kid starts pre-K

My ex texted me the other day to report that our daughter told him, “Daddy, Mommy is going to school. Just like me!”

She just started pre-K, and I just started my doctoral program. But to her, we are both initiating exactly the same endeavor. I could not be prouder. I may have effed up a million other things about parenting, but I know in my heart that this is something I’ve done right.

The last time I was in school was before she was born, so this time around I’m learning to be a student all over again. The late nights of cramming are harder to do when I know my daughter will wake up at 6 the next morning and need me to help her get ready for her own school day. The textbooks are a little harder to pore through when Curious George is playing in the background after school or when I’m sitting down to help her work on a project. Still, we press on. Even though it’s been a challenge with a steep learning curve, I treasure the way she looks at me and smiles when I sit down next to her with a book in my hands. It’s like she knows and is proud too.

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She felt proud during the first week of school when she threw her “pack-pack” over her shoulders, stuffed full of “homework” that she had completed, just like Mommy.

I felt proud when a professor gave me permission to bring her — home sick with a mild virus — to the university so I could take a quiz while she rested in my lap.

She felt proud when she announced to her pre-K teacher that her mommy was going to school too.

I felt proud when I brought her to a doctoral program party, where she was able to see a host of other student mothers who have likewise placed a high value on their education and have brought their children along for the ride.

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Education is a beautiful thing. I have felt this way all along, but my reverence for education has grown exponentially as I’ve participated in the educational process with a little one watching me. It is one thing to teach our children the value of a good education and entirely another thing to live out the value of it before their very eyes. I know not all parents can afford — with either time or money — to return to a formal education, but I truly believe that obtaining a particular degree isn’t exactly the point, anyway.

The point is teaching our children that the human brain is the most valuable resource available to anyone and that the growth of our intellect and intelligence is not an option — it is a duty and a privilege. And for me, as a single parent, it is the resource that no one can take away from me and that I will use to provide my child with the life I want for her.

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