On a beautiful May morning, Anna skipped across the parking lot, hugged her teacher, grabbed a bubble wand and celebratory balloon and ran down an aisle to hug me.
Just like that, she graduated preschool.
Later that evening Tom gave Anna a high-five and told her, “For a while there we weren’t sure you were going to graduate!”
It was a joke, for sure, but there was definitely a time when I couldn’t imagine not having a preschooler. Tangled up in the years and years of diapers and breastfeeding and wrangling children into five-point harnesses — the idea that one day my children would all be able to tie their shoes, swim, and not go to preschool? An alternate reality.
But now, here we are. My family is closing the door on a decade of drop-offs, pick-ups, handprint art, and letters-of-the-week. The preschool years are over.
David started preschool in 2013, just a few weeks after his second birthday. Mary was three months old, and I was desperately searching for my footing as a new mom. I was so, so, so tired. Making it to preschool on time was a huge accomplishment and often the only thing I would accomplish all day.
David’s first day of preschool – 2013
Preschool was also the first and ONLY thing I ever put into my kids’ schedule for years. We didn’t do sports or music classes because I loved staying at home and taking every day slow. Preschool was the one thing that was worth the interruption of those long unscheduled days.
We loved our preschool. We loved the friends we made, the art projects that came home, and the small circle of families and teachers that became an integral part of my life as a mom of little kids.
When David started kindergarten, his bus conflicted with preschool drop-off. I was pregnant, I had two preschoolers and a kindergartener. It was arguably the most hectic year of my life. On the first day of preschool, I hung my head and told Mary’s teacher that we would never, ever be on time.
The teacher smiled warmly as she welcomed Mary into the already-in-progress class and replied, “We’re just so glad you’re here.”
When I transport back to that time in my life — when everything was a struggle and I was so exhausted — I cannot express what a balm it was to hear that encouragement. It’s ok that you’re late, you forget show-and-tell, and your kid’s snack isn’t organic and cut into cute little shapes, we’re just so glad you’re here.
Two preschoolers and a kindergartener – 2017
This is the true magic of preschool, isn’t it? It’s all about letters and numbers, sure. But I will always look back on preschool with fondness and gratitude because of how the teachers cared for my family while we trudged through what I believe are the most exhausting, physically demanding years of parenting.
In my first year as a preschool mom I remember getting emails asking for classroom volunteers and thinking, “No was I can do that! I have a toddler and a baby!”
It didn’t take long to realize that THIS IS PRESCHOOL! Literally everyone has a toddler and a baby. Except for the people who have a toddler and a baby and are also pregnant. Then there are the people with a kindergartener and an impossible bus schedule to work around.
This is the demographic of the preschool parent: in the trenches.
Now I am not pregnant and I don’t have any toddlers; preschool enrollment is open for the fall and for the first time in a long time I don’t have anyone to enroll. Our family is off to big-kid school where, with every passing grade, I notice fewer and fewer moms swaying babies in Moby wraps at back to school night.
We’re moving on, but the preschool where we were loved so well is filling with classes of new children and their parents who are late, or maybe way too early. They’re chasing naptime, potty-training, and somewhere between the house and school, their 3-year old lost their shoes.
They are impossibly tired, excited for a few hours of free time, and anxious about leaving their child for the first time. And those preschool teachers? They are so, so glad they’re all there.
2021 – Anna’s first day of preschool, when she smiled so big I thought she was going to bust.
Our preschool gave our kids a great academic foundation and social foundation. The teachers told the kids every single day that God made them and loves them. And for me? Somewhere in between the harried drop offs and pick ups, the teachers reminded me over and over that I wasn’t doing this alone. They told me the one thing that I didn’t even realize I needed so badly — we’re with you, we see you and we care about you.
Next year Anna will go to kindergarten and we are officially done with preschool. But do you ever REALLY leave preschool behind? Who grows out of finger paints and snack time??? Or even better, who grows out of being welcomed with a warm smile and genuine love?
Anna’s last day of preschool
(Also shout-out to this tote bag. I bought one when David started school in 2013 and another in 2015 for Mary. The four kids each used them until a strap broke this year. The original tote I bought in 2013 made it and boooooy if this thing could talk.)