Harper Makes Hamentaschen

March 11, 2016

Harper Makes Hamentaschen

By Erin Chado

When I first became a mom I expected many things. I was prepared for the crying and loud sleepless nights when my daughter was a baby. I knew my husband would roll over, eyes half closed, to nudge me awake so I could soothe our little one. I also expected, as she got older, to marvel at first times — her first smile, her first steps, and her first word, which, by the way, was not mama, but dada!

When Harper became a toddler I expected her to run and explore and not always listen, and that came true. Many a day were spent explaining why we hold hands in parking lots and public spaces. We also went over the importance of knowing mom and dad’s name, even at 2. As she grew, most everything I expected was right on target. The only curveball I really faced was who would care for my baby when I went back to work? Where would she go to get the best care and education?

If you know me, or anything about me, you know I am a type A personality — all the way. I don’t leave things to chance. I don’t let other people watch my child and I do not like the unexpected.

So this was the most serious and difficult decision I had yet to make. This would shape her personality. This would shape her life. Where was she going to preschool?

I toured various local preschools based on word of mouth recommendations and MSDE ratings. Then I started working at the J. We decided for now, my husband would stay home with our daughter, but that we should make a quick decision about preschools because she would eventually require more structure. During my work day at the J, I would occasionally pop downstairs to see all the programming that was going on in our ECE (Early Childhood Education).

During one of my visits downstairs, I saw a small class walking through the halls carting oversized towels and clopping in brightly colored rubber swim shoes. The woman at the front desk said they were going to their swim class at the indoor pool. Seriously, I thought to myself. How cool is that?! I had moments like this the entire time I was learning about our ECE and all the activities our children get to participate in. No other school I toured offered swim lessons year round! Not to mention the Hebrew lessons, multiple — and super cool — playgrounds, special dress up days, gym classes, and a nutritional awareness program called Healthy Choices.

It was decided. I was sending my daughter to the JCC ECE. I was so excited for all the new and fun things she would learn and do. So, while I expected she would come home with stories of playing with friends on the playground, or singing silly songs in music class. There were also a ton of things that happened, that I didn’t expect!

I didn’t expect that by sending my daughter to JCC preschool, our family would become, as it were, “better Jews.” We weren’t necessarily “bad Jews,” if there is such a thing. But, I would say, we became “trying hard Jews”. Every Friday in school, my daughter participates in Shabbat traditions, eating challah, drinking grape juice, and saying the blessings. Through doing this at school, she absolutely fell in love with Shabbat. Her new found love for Shabbat, quickly turned into a family affair. My daughter started picking out her very own challah from the lobby every Friday morning, made sure we had grape juice at home every Friday afternoon and now insists that when we get home for Shabbat, she gets to light the candles with me. Wow, right? This is something I would have never expected my family to be doing, yet here we are.

We make a big deal about many holidays which we didn’t really even recognize before. On Purim we make Hamentaschen in our kitchen as a family and it certainly has made us a much closer family. There are many other wonderful Jewish traditions we take part in now too – like tzedekah. We keep a box on our entry table to put change in every day. We also started going to shul on high holy days. These are big lessons arising from preschool.

Strange, but among my most favorite of the unexpected experiences has been meeting my two best friends. Sending my daughter to the JCC Preschool has opened a community I never knew existed. We have probably gone to 20 birthday parties alone this year. And they are not your typical, bring your kid and stand around awkwardly while the kids play. NO! The parents hang out! We chat and talk about the new things going on at school, and the next fun family outing.

My daughter has been going to the J for a little over a year. Every morning now is the same routine. I make her the wrong breakfast, pick out the wrong clothes, and comb her hair “too rough”.  I don’t do too much right these days. But every morning, although it is spent remaking breakfast, picking out a new outfit, and letting her go to school with the most ridiculous looking hair you could imagine, I know the one thing I am doing right for sure is dropping her off at the JCC Preschool.

Life is full of surprises. Some good, some not so good, and some more wonderful then you ever could have expected. Some choices transform your life, unexpectedly. I learned much of this, by picking the right preschool.

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