Preschool Has Arrived
This month my tiny daughter started preschool. Two days a week, for three hours a day, she goes to preschool with twelve other four year olds. It’s an odd time of year to start, but this school doesn’t accept students until they have actually turned four. Since her birthday is in December, we waited until after the holidays to get her started.
We chose this particular school for several reasons:
1) We’ve heard amazing things about it from our friends. It’s located on a working farm, provides children with unique learning opportunities, and continues the Christian education we are giving our children at home.
2) The woman who runs it and is the teacher was good friends with my mother-in-law when they were in school. She was a kindergarten teacher for 30 years before “retiring” to help children prepare for kindergarten.
3) It’s five minutes from our home, which is pretty amazing considering that very little is actually close to our rural farm.
We feel really good about the decision to send her there, and she’s excited about going to school. I thought I might cry the entire time I sent her there for the first time, but the very smart teacher requires a parent to join the student for the first day of school. So I was with her the entire time. My eyes leaked a little off and on over the morning, as I saw her jumping right in with the other kids, trying to figure things out and get into the rhythm they’ve already established.
To see her unsure of herself, that always gets me. She’s such a confident child, but when I see her doubt herself, I get emotional. I know she has to figure it out, but I just hurt a little until she does. I’m not sure if other mothers feel that way or not, or why this particular thing gets me. But it sure does.
We’re told she’s tall for her age, but she was the youngest one there that day and just blended right in with the other kids. Since I was always an awkward head taller than the kids in my class, I felt such relief to see how normal she looked when in the group of kids.
My heart was touched when I saw her identify a new friend. The other little girl was kind and showed Eliana how to do a few things, so Eliana made up her mind to be friends. She saved her a seat at snack time and made a point to sit together whenever possible. There’s a little boy there who is a beast of a kid, one of those guys you know is going to be a linebacker some day. I watched as he displayed the most gentle of tendencies, including my daughter in his discoveries and treating her like she’s always been there.
She was on cloud nine as we drove away, chattering on and on about how things went and what she’s supposed to do for the next class. It was hard for her to understand that she would see the same kids at the same place in just a few days, and that her new friendships wouldn’t stop as quickly as they started.
Bad weather caused class to be cancelled the next time. We never thought a thing about it though, and bundled her up for school without checking cancellations. Rick drove her because we were concerned about the roads. She was a little concerned about going by herself that day, so I encouraged Rick to be flexible. If she seemed upset when he dropped her off, he could always go in for a few minutes to help her get comfortable. It was a little disappointing when they arrived to find no one but the teacher around!
The next day for school, the weather cooperated and I got her ready for the day. Right before we were about to leave, she looked at me with a little bit of uncertainty and asked if I was going to stay with her for a little while. I gave her a big smile and said something like, “Sweetheart, you are so smart; so fun; so brave. You aren’t going to have any problem jumping right in there this morning and doing a great job.”
I was rewarded with a huge, confident smile and a hug. Then together we walked out to the car and got her buckled in. As I was buckling her, she gave me the most adoring look and said, “Mommy, I’m so glad you’re here with me.”
My brave face melted. All I could think of was how happy I am that SHE is here with me. My daughter. My precious one. HERE. No longer a dream, a hope, a fear that I might somehow miss out on the gift of motherhood. She is a reality far better than I ever dreamed. Tears welled up and she looked at me with concern, “Are you sad, Mommy?”
“No, sweet girl. I’m not sad. I’m just so happy that I’m here with you too. You are my most precious treasure.”
On the way to school, I went over the school’s morning routine with her again. I reminded her that I’d be waiting when school was over. When she saw her teacher, she lit up like a Christmas tree and happily went inside without me.
I had a few tears as I drove away. My tiny one is growing up and learning to do things without me. She’s learning from other people who have had different experiences than me and can teach her things to help her become a well-rounded person. She’s learning about Jesus from someone other than me (and her Sunday school teachers). She’s making friends.
This year it’s two days a week. Next year, it will be three days a week. When kindergarten starts, it will be five days a week. It seems like a good progression to me. A gentle start to the letting go that parents have to do.
She’s still in Story Hour at the Library. She’s been moved up to a more advanced gymnastics class. Both of those adventures are an hour a week with a different teacher. Both of those teachers provide her with a different perspective and knowledge-base than mine.
I’ve thought about hugging her close, keeping her with me and our family only for as long as humanly possible. I’ve thought about the dangers of what those other teachers might try to imprint upon her young mind. It scares me a little to expose her to such a wide variety of other people (children and adults). I remember some of the crazy things I learned from kids I encountered in school. But I’ve decided that FEAR will not be the ruling factor in my parenting decisions.
To the best of our ability, Rick and I will pay attention to any place our children go. We’ll get to know teachers, babysitters, friends, and anyone else who might influence our children. We’ll hold our children up in prayer, constantly asking God to protect their hearts, minds, and bodies. We’ll do all we can as stewards of these precious lives to ensure their safety and innocence, and we’ll trust God’s protecting and guiding hand to reach where we cannot.
Trusting our most precious treasures to others is a huge leap of faith, but when we think of the ones we know who give their lives to educate and enhance the lives of children, we smile. There is so much potential out there. There are so many awesome people who can teach them things we will never be able to teach them ourselves. To us, this feels like a good thing.
Eliana came home from her second day of preschool with her eyes shining bright. She told me that the teachers are her newest best friends. She hugged her brother and excitedly told her Grandma about her day. I’m sure there will be days when she comes home with frustration or sadness, or a host of other emotions. We will tackle those times when they come. For now, I am so thankful she had a good day.
*Photo credit: Me. I totally coached her on this photo too. Point your feet this direction. Put your hand on your hip. Smile like this… Yup. I’m THAT mom.