Yesterday I took Cat to my alma mater Mother McAuley to feel out the pre-school program offered on campus. I’m thinking of signing her up in January when she’s 2-1/2, two days a week for less than 6 hours. It felt foreign to traverse the halls again, this time with a daughter in tow, and yet so familiar. I remember well running from one wing to another to get to class on time or risk detention.
I was struck but not surprised by how welcoming and thoughtful the students were – not just those who help out with the program – but all the young women we passed who waved to Cat and gushed over her cuteness.
Mother McAuley was my first foray into all-female education. I honestly think I thrived in an environment where pressure to impress the opposite sex was non-existent. I loved learning about strong female historical and political figures, literary giants and scientists in a classroom with other teenage girls. A far cry from the stereotype, there was no daily dose of male-bashing taking place either.
There were, however, expectations. Rules were meant to be followed, academic standards to be upheld. And religion was an inordinately important component of the rigorous academia.
Being married to a publicly educated protestant, I rationalized there’d have to be some compromise when it came time to send Cat to school. Besides, I’ve never been a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of gal.
But yesterday brought home why my parents sacrificed to send me there. Not just for the curriculum but for character. When I told my hubby tales from the front - of uniform blouses being tucked in at all times sans T-shirt underneath - as a creative free sprit he scoffed. As someone who survived four years and can fondly reminisce, I not only see the value in such standards; I fully appreciate them. It’s not about conformity as much as laying the groundwork for convention, etiquette, and principles.
I know within its walls, Mother McAuley will be a place where Cat can learn to stand up and be strong, gentle when the moment calls, and humane and kind toward her fellow woman – and man - when it’s not always easy to be so.
I wish for her what was given to me, a foundation of understanding and thought that has lead to greater things and a life rich in experience and adventure.
This blog was written by Suzanne DeChatelet Witt '93. Suzanne is a freelance writer and co-author of the blog Chirpygirls.com. She also is a proud product of eight years of single-gender education.