This morning was the morning I'd been secretly dreading. It's the last full day of preschool for Kiddo. The last morning where parents are allowed to go down the stairs with their children to the preschool space, so cozy, warm and inviting. My heart is full of feeling as I write this, even now, and I wish I'd thought to say goodbye to the glorious main room myself, where so many little memories of my own lie in between the cracks in the blocks, in the book basket. They reside in the aquarium filled with Australian stick insects-- I remember how Kiddo called them "ant eaters" for weeks, much to my confusion, and how he liked to spray them through the screen on top with a misting bottle. I remember mornings when he'd bound in, put his name up where names go, and head to the big table filled with red Utah sand, pouring it over his hands and telling me "Mommy, you try." The sand was so soft and the kids pushed and jockeyed for position and sand toys and he seemed so little then...
No, I didn't go down memory lane just then. I was pragmatic and discreetly approached Wendy, one of his awesome and amazing teachers. "Just so I know, are you going to be telling the kids today about Monday?" She gave me a squeeze and told me that no, they'd be doing it Monday, the day that the older kids are 'flying away'.
The Garden's Noise Preschool has a lovely tradition at the end of their year together. They hatch chrysalids in a butterfly enclosure which they later release when their wings are dry. Then, the week before school ends, the children who will return paint silk scarves for the non-returning kids. Some will go to Kindergarten, some might move out of town to a new school or go to pre-K. If you are a kid who won't be coming back next year, you get to 'fly away'. I've been fortunate enough to be connected with this school, in some capacity or another, over the past ten years, and I've been to a couple of these ceremonies, which put a lump in my throat at all the beauty and kindness and community I experienced. I am sure I will be pretty darn weepy, as I am right now, truth be told.
One blessing in all of this is that Kiddo will be able to enjoy his weekend without the anxiety and worry of 'what is going to happen'. I know I've touched on this before, so I won't go into it too much, just to say that I've been so incredibly pleased with how the teachers at the preschool have been so supportive of our children and the families, and how I love that their priorities are so respectful of our kids. When Kiddo's complained about having to go to school this week, I've gently reminded him that summer is coming up and we'll have a lot more stay at home days, but that's the extent to which that conversation has gone.
What I'll miss most will be the cocoon of Kiddo's little school. From the first, director/teacher Michele and teachers Diane and Wendy have worked hard to make the preschool a place of acceptance and friendship. They have done this successfully through loving guidance and much social coaching, around well-chosen activities which have engaged the children's sense of wonder and allowed their thoughts and creativity to blossom. The general tone of the parent population, too, is more or less 'thoughtful', and so this isn't the group of kids that would be teaching my son new, exciting illicit words or the plot of Star Wars or Ironman or Transformers or other more scintillating (read: not age-appropriate) stories. Most of his preschool friends are still enamored with Winnie the Pooh, ladybugs, spontaneous fantasy play and the natural world. Our world is going to be totally rocked by some of the more worldly families we'll meet in kindergarten.
Can't I just shrink him back down and throw him in the baby carrier on my back and protect him forever?
Most parents have already had this experience, sending their children off to daycare or preschool, out into the world with adults who aren't family, who weren't a truly known quantity--- and they did fine with this, I know. However, this is a bit delayed for me, because like the moms in Nostalgia Land, I never had to let my son go out beyond what was 'family' to me. Knowing the Diane, Wendy and Michele for so long had made them already 'family'. The Garden's Noise Preschool was more or less an extension of our own home and backyard... so close we could walk there every day, as familiar to me as my own home, in so many ways. The teachers are the other honorary aunties in my life, the wise women who have helped us to get Kiddo to sleep in his own room, to become comfortable enough to play with other children, and to grow into the fun little boy we have now.
My connection with them is not severed; they are a great resource for me as well, and when I step back into my teaching shoes again, it will be them that I turn to for professional advice. Until then, I move into summer with a sense of acceptance and a willingness to let our days come as they will. There's no hurry to hold onto anything-- it's a spiritual truism that we cannot receive with a closed hand, so I will keep my heart and hands open, so that I might catch whatever goodness life throws to us.