I feel like I’m in a weird in-between stage of parenting. I’ve got two big kids who are in full-day elementary school, and I’ve got two little ones at home with me.
This one-foot-in-each-world is not unique to me, I know. But it’s tough on the sentimental side of me that wants to mark every milestone and soak in every detail.
This morning the kids were getting ready for school and I was running through my mental checklist — Does everyone have a snack? Who needs to return library books? Where’s that field trip permission slip? — and I remembered that it was Thomas’s last day of school.
“GUYS!” I said, trying to rally. “Today is Thomas’s last day of school! And he’s having a Popsicle party!”
The big kids are awesome, they immediately acted excited for him and jealous ( the greatest big-sibling compliment of all). Mary double-checked with him that he was wearing an appropriate shirt for the last day of school.
I managed to snap a few pictures, and he was off with Tom while I took the big kids to the bus stop.
I love preschool, but I love the end of preschool, too. One less place for me to be, bag to pack, calendar to remember. Fewer germs coming home, and one less activity that I have to make Thomas wear clothes.
Most mornings this year Tom has driven away with Thomas screaming that he didn’t want to go to school. It was all theatrics (for my benefit, I guess) because the moment they were out of the driveway he was fine. I’d pick him up three hours later and he’d be happy until I clicked his carseat buckles and dared to ask him a question about school. He’d answer all my questions with NOTHING! NOBODY! GRRRRR!! and then yell at me that the music was too loud or too quiet. I would silently remind myself that he was three, and that he’d probably been holding that tantrum in for three solid hours.
Thomas told me very, very little about school, but every now and then he’d slip and mention a piece of a Bible story, or a game or song he’d learned. I’d look at him with a side-eye because his long-con about not liking school was slipping.
I know he loved school because what’s not to love? Playtime! Stories! Friends! And also because once we happened to be out in the yard and his teacher ran by our house, and he talked about it for the next two months.
I have felt more disconnected from preschool this year than I ever have. Because of the big kids’ bus schedule, Tom took Thomas to school, so I missed out on seeing teachers and other parents at drop off. Turns out those few minutes at the door are a big part of the preschool experience.
One morning Tom and I switched, and I took Thomas to school. His teacher greeted him warmly and as I helped him unpack his bag she talked to him about Play-doh and dragons.
I know I shouldn’t have but I was surprised by the details she knew about Thomas. Thomas loves dragons, and he is fascinated by Play-doh way more than most kids. How did she know that? Of course she knows that. Both thoughts occurred to me at the same time. Of course someone who spends six hours a week with Thomas knows that he loved dragons, the color orange, and being silly. Of course they know that he is independent, quiet in groups, and sometimes answers questions with a roar.
If you ask parents about their experiences with preschools, you will most likely receive emphatic praise. Preschools mean a lot to parents, and not because of academic rigor or program superiority, but because one of the greatest gifts is seeing someone else listen to, appreciate, and celebrate your child.
(And also don’t make you feel guilty for showing up late, leaving his bag at home, and forgetting that it’s water day. Again.)
As my older kids keep me busier and busier, preschool is perhaps even more important in our family. For two days a week, Thomas’s entire world was catered to him as a three-year old. There are three-year old art projects, books, friends — no babies, no big kids. Just a class of his peers and two teachers who love and guide him through his three-year-old-ness.
When I pick him up he’s immediately thrown back into his world of siblings. As soon as we get home I rush upstairs to put Anna down for a nap and I leave him eating lunch alone at the table. When I come back, Thomas is gone, his lunch is, too. I find them both on the back porch. Thomas’s clothes are off and he’s licking the salt off a cracker (his preferred way of eating is salt-first).
Thomas is independent and wild because of our lifestyle, because of his siblings, because that’s how God created him. I’m grateful for a safe, supportive space for him to learn, explore and express himself, guided by people who love him.
Look back on Thomas’s first day of the three-year old class
You might recognize his shirt from when David wore it on the last day of preschool