For five years now I've had a child at a cooperative preschool. This is a school run by the parents and it requires a lot of parental involvement. We do employ real teachers, but the parents help in the classroom, pay the bills, fund-raise, fix broken toys, order the paper and paint, plan for the future, set the goals, advertise for new members and on and on.
It is not an option for everyone. Many work schedules won't allow for the time commitment. Many parents may not want to be that involved! But for me, it has been a perfect way to start of my children's education and it has brought me so much more than I could ever list here.
So, what does this little plug for Co-Ops have to do with writing? A lot!
First of all, I think if you want to write for young children, you need to be around children, and preferably not just your own children. It is beneficial to be a fly on the wall when kids are just being kids. You probably don't remember what it is like to be 3 or 4. I think I have a grand total of 3 memories from that time in my life. So, you have to be able to tap into that in some other way. Simple observation and interaction is priceless.
Second, you have to have friends. Being a stay-at-home-mom can be a lonely enterprise sometimes. You can lose yourself in just being "mom" and not being "me". Having other grown-up friends is essential to sanity. Even just a shared look of sympathy from a friend when your kid trips, screams, and launches a paint-filled paper at your newly-washed car interior helps. You don't feel alone. Having friends in similar circumstances as yourself allows you to be yourself. They support you, cheer you on, pick you back up, and nod knowingly when you whine. And my Co-Op friends have been very supportive and wonderful as I start this writing journey.
Finally, the Co-Op reminds me why I write. I am writing for the kids who come and ask me to read them a book during free play time. I am writing for our awesome teachers who rejoice in finding new books that illustrate their lesson. I am writing for these dedicated parents who spend a lot of time and energy making sure their kids are off to a good start in their education. I write for the joyful noise of play, the quiet of story time, the chaos of art work, the cheerful exclamations of discovery and the tears that come sometimes. I write for childhood.
I love you, Co-Op Mommies (you crazy-amazing women)!