Drawing a Line

Kale starts preschool tomorrow, and as I mentioned in my last post, he has a whole list of goodies he is supposed to be bringing with him for the first day. One of those items I’m stumbling on and it’s brought up an interesting conversation point for me today.

The item is a letter, from us to Kale, to be included in the earthquake kit we are also bringing.

Now, I get it. This is one of those “If you’re reading this letter they don’t know where we are” type letters. And I’ll write something, grudgingly, that tells Kale how much we love him, and I’ll include a lovely memory from something fun we did. He will have a treasured letter from us and there will be no snark or sarcasm in the letter.


But this whole thing annoys me. It feels like lip service. It feels like something a government committee decided that all children’s service providers should ask for. It’s probably some sort of licensing rule. It feels kind of pointless. Never mind the fact it is unlikely I will ever be unable to get to Kale – chances are if there is a “big one” I’ll be walking up there and collecting him myself within a few short minutes. We live a ten minute walk from the preschool. If there is enough time for the preschool to actually sit down and start sharing the contents of his “earthquake kit” with Kale before I arrive to collect him, then I’m dead, and a letter won’t be much comfort at the time. As well, the practicality of a preschool instructor sitting down with my son and reading him a private letter (since he’s three and can’t read it himself) during the middle of a catastrophic event is a farce. The two employees are going to be: a) freaking the heck out about their own families and safety and b) have 15 other children to ensure are kept safe and fed with those 6 nut free granola bars and 6 juice boxes their parents are supplying.

This beef isn’t about the absurdity of a letter to my child in the event something terrible happens – I like the idea of it and I do plan to leave a letter with my brother and sister in law, who are appointed as Kale’s legal guardian should anything happen to both Ross and I. We tell Kale every single day how much we love him and we share hugs and kisses and all sorts of affection for one another. We have many fantastic photos of all three of us enjoying ourselves as a happy family. Kale will have many visual reminders of our familial love should something terrible happen. A letter in his preschool earthquake kit is not the only talisman he would have access to.

But, in a bigger picture sort of way, this brings up a whole other issue for me. Where is the line between what the duty of the preschool instructors (or soccer coach or teacher or girl guide leader etc) and what is our responsibility as the parents? I mean, I don’t expect anyone to parent my kid – sure they can discipline him in a way I have already deemed acceptable after I did my due diligence and got reference checks and observed the classroom and all that stuff – but I relieve my child’s service providers from the job of parenting Kale. That’s our job, not theirs. I get it that kids spend great blocks of time with various other trusted adults, but it is our job to raise Kale, and teach him all the things we believe he should be instilled with. It is NOT the job of a preschool employee to lead Kale through grief. It is not their job to parent him. It is their job to lead him through activities and teach him skills and make sure he’s not a jerk while that’s happening.

I hear about many parents who drop off their kids to various service providers, whether it is school or extra curriculars etc, and long for someone else to do the job. I have been one of those service providers before, as a coach, as a girl guide leader, and as an all-day babysitter. Parenting is hard, extremely hard – I get that. I struggle every day to balance it all and still maintain a good disposition and be a good example and I regularly teeter between age appropriate “filter” and “censor” for Kale. Every day I am faced with choices about how I demonstrate behaviour and interact with my son. So I understand there are parents out there who have reached a breaking point, or perhaps never started out on the right foot in the first place, and would just like to drop their kid off and let someone else do it and pick up a well parented kid at the end of the day.

I don’t have an answer to this. I’m actually kind of surprised that *this* has become the issue I cling to and let fester in my brain as my child has knocked off yet another item on the Great Invisible To-Do Life List and is taking the first step toward school.  Maybe this hits home for me because subconsciously, I am scared of not being there for Kale if something terrible happened. Maybe I just don’t want the preschool teacher to do what defines me as a mom, as if her completing that task somehow takes away a part of my identity.

What do you think? Where is the line?


10 years ago


  1. Very excellent points.

    If there is enough time for the preschool to actually sit down and start sharing the contents of his “earthquake kit” with Kale before I arrive to collect him, then I’m dead, and a letter won’t be much comfort at the time. As well, the practicality of a preschool instructor sitting down with my son and reading him a private letter (since he’s three and can’t read it himself) during the middle of a catastrophic event is a farce.

    That has been my point when friends tell me about the earthquake kits they have to put together. Knowing my friends opinions about this kit with their own kids, just know, you are not alone on the whole idea of it.

  2. I don’t really think the point is that they’re going to parent him. They’re responsible for him until someone comes to get him. And it sounds like they take that responsibility very seriously. Very Seriously. OK..I mean, at our preschool I have never had to provide anything like you’ve had to for this place. So I would be annoyed too. But I don’t think it’s an attempt to usurp your parental authority. I think they feel like they are responsible for your kid while he’s under their care. So they plan for every eventuality. Including a monsoon? (The shoes? I am very confused by the shoes.)

    But as far as emergency preparedness goes — I have never lived through an earthquake. Certainly not a 10.5 or whatever the hell they’re predicting for the lower mainland. And yeah, probably you’ll be at the coffee shop drinking a tea. Or maybe you’ll be at the Quay. Or maybe you’ll be in Queensborough with Brigette. It might take a while. No, Kale isn’t going to live and die by your measly letter, but in the event that you’re not there right away and maybe the care providers are freaking out and all he’s got is the letter and his change of clothes…I think it might be more useful than you give it credit for.

    Or maybe I watch too many disaster movies?

    1. Okay maybe I’m getting my feathers ruffled for not a whole lot of much. I see how it would be comforting, but it just seems kind of like something a committee decided on, not something parents request. I think it should be optional to provide it, and it doesn’t seem very optional. The whole service provider parenting my kids isn’t just about this preschool – it’s a general observation.

      1. I agree that it should be optional! Honestly (as a parent) it would never even occur to me to do such a thing, so you’re probably right that it was a committee decision..or maybe it was some teacher’s legacy.

        I can’t say that I’ve noticed the tendency toward service provider parenting, but then I haven’t done any lessons or classes other than preschool since A was …2? Of course, with soccer and kindergarten about to begin, we shall see.

  3. Wow, this topic has certainly spurred a lot of discussion. As I mentioned on Twitter earlier in the day, when I had to write one of these letters, I tossed off a couple of quick lines, along the lines of: Mommy and daddy love you, we’ll pick you up as soon as we can. This mightily offended my husband, who replaced my short note with a much lengthier missive.
    I think my discomfort with the letter is echoed in this point you make Jen: “Maybe this hits home for me because subconsciously, I am scared of not being there for Kale if something terrible happened.”
    I think I didn’t want to write the letter in any detail because it would require me to think about something bad happening to me, something that would affect my ability to care for my child, and even more that, something bad happening to my kid. (Bad things happen to kids in earthquakes too, not just to parents.)
    As far as the letter providing comfort: well, who knows? Probably depends on the kid. People find comfort in all sorts of places and ways. A letter might hit the mark for some, might miss for others.

  4. You have given this a lot more thought than I. Or at least about this particular thing. I’ve written The Letter. I did it for my son. I just wrote one for my daughter who starts preschool next week. I don’t know what it says about me that I just wrote it and thought nothing more about it. It’s kind of a sucky letter actually. I hope it’s not something that they’ll ever need because I’d hate for that to be my last words of comfort. Eep. Re-write!

  5. Oh dear god…you’d better hope you’re not over in Queensborough with me when the Big One hits. Don’t you know that if you were, we’re doomed, DOOMED!!!! ;-P

  6. I can answer the “shoes” thing. During preschool the kids get to go outside. So long as it’s not downpouring they go out. If it was downpouring 15 minutes before they go out chances are there are huge puddles. Kids LOVE puddles. The last thing the school wants to do is send your child home with muddy, soaked shoes. You must understand that not all parents think to send them with boots on a day it pours rain so the school is just covering all angles.

    As for the letter, I don’t think they want to take over your job as a parent. I don’t know any teacher that wants to do that. But, I think the idea behind it is a “feel good” type of thing for the child. If they are all sitting in a circle because the power has gone out but the building is still standing they can each get their letter read to them to make them “feel good” and not scared of what is happening.

    Don’t overthing it, Jen. It’s just preschool. There really is no conspiracy to take over your job… trust me. 🙂

  7. Hey, Jen, meant to ask you… have you ever thought of getting Kale into a Montessori program for preschool? It is a little more expensive than your regular finger painting preschool but after sending Megan through I’m glad I did. She has also been attending a Montessori through the public school system (totally free) and has made it to through to grade 7. I honestly have never seen a happier bunch of teachers in a pubic school. I love the fact that everything is geared towards the child being an individual and praised for that as well as learning that helping your fellow man is a good thing. Not at all what I experienced with my son!

    1. Kale actually is going to a Montessori preschool. I chose it very specifically because it was. In New West you have to stick your kid on the wait list to get into the programs of choice (like French Immersion or Montessori) pretty much from birth, so Kale has been on that list for a few years in preparation of Kindergarten. The school that offers kindergarten montessori is not too far from us, either. 🙂 Fingers crossed he gets in.

      1. Well then, that explains even more why the extra shoes and the letter. My experience it that they view the kids as not only $$ and a job but as family as well. It’s funny because of the 3 teachers Megan has had since grade 2 I know everything about them as they share their lives with the kids. It’s only been 4 days and I already know her new teacher gets called “Robert” when his mother is annoyed with him. And on Friday he told the kids he hoped the “strike action” doesn’t get to the point that it forces him to not coach the kids because he loves doing it and will be really mad. In Grade 1 I had to listen to Megan come home telling me why her teacher should get more money and why the kids should come picket with the teachers at the school. Total 180! 🙂

        It’s an experience that will not only benefit you but Kale for sure. I love that Megan’s teachers have taken such a huge interest in her life and only want the best for her. Even though it takes me 20 minutes to drive her to school (80 minutes a day) I wouldn’t change it for anything and I know you will feel the same way. Regular public schools suck these days! lol

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