Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Weepy Goodbye to Preschool

One thing I've noticed about life with a little kid: The days often feel long, but the weeks and months rocket by.

Tomorrow the Grape will graduate from preschool—that wonderful place around which our weekdays have revolved since September, 2011.

Here he is, checking out the dramatic play corner of the two-year-old room on his very first day:

This photo was snapped before he realized I was about to leave him there for almost three hours. He was a newly minted two-year-old; he started school four weeks after his second birthday.

I never meant to send the Grape to school so young. I'd filled out a form to apply to the three-year-old room for the following school year. Admittedly, I'd done so very early, on the advice of friends with older kids.

Then our beloved sitter, M., told us she was moving out of Boston in August.

Serendipitously, the preschool director called to let us know she had a two-year-old spot, for three days a week, starting three weeks hence.

We'd interviewed a few replacement sitters, but hadn't found that perfect fit, and I was growing increasingly anxious and weepy as the date of M.'s departure drew near.

Did we want the spot for the Grape? asked the preschool director.

"Isn't he too young?" I asked.

"That's your decision," she said. "But yes, he would be the youngest in the school."

I asked the departing sitter what she thought. After all, she was the baby whisperer, the one who could get the Grape to eat and sleep when nobody else could stop him from howling. And she had a master's in social work and a long career working with children. We valued her opinion.

"He'd love it. He loves being with other children," she said without missing a beat.

She was so sure that she made me feel sure. I called the preschool. "We'll take it."

Best parenting decision we ever made. Hands down.

The little baby playing in the kitchen is a full fledged kid now, one who knows an era is ending and who feels angst and nerves about the unknown world of kindergarten—a hazy place in his head, albeit one reached by bus.

One who marches confidently around the city with his class, who builds long term group projects and creates elaborate imaginary play scenarios with his friends. He's made charts of the triumphs and defeats of the Red Sox. He's learned about the inner workings of the human body and about the ocean. He's built entire cities with blocks.

He's explored different kinds of art, he's been to parks I never knew existed, and he's gone from a little boy who ran from the stage shrieking in terror during his first holiday show, to one who proudly belts out songs with his classmates.

He's learned to be a good classroom citizen.

He can do basic arithmetic and write his terribly long name. He recognizes several written words.

All in a purely play-based, child-centered environment, where the teachers never threw a single ditto or flashcard at the kids.

And he's made real friends, many of whom will go their separate ways tomorrow afternoon. (One boy from the class will attend the same kindergarten as the Grape.)

I'm grateful he won't know to mourn those losses, that he won't truly process the permanence of graduation. That he'll have the summer to adjust to a necessary change, and to meet his old friends at the playground.

But his Mamma will probably cry when we walk out of that school for the last time.


  1. Oh I so get this. I'll be there in a few years.

  2. It was a bittersweet event. He's already asking, when can he go back to school, and it hasn't hit him that his little friends, four of whom have been with him since they were all newly minted two-year-olds, are dispersing to different schools.