So, today is Julia's last day of preschool. It’s hard to believe three years have flown by so quickly. I remember sitting in our new parent orientation session three years ago and feeling incredibly nervous. Our girl was so big yet so tiny. She wasn’t even two yet, but we were enrolling her in preschool? It was so beyond our frame of reference – Dave and I both started preschool when we were four years old. Did we really need to enroll Julia at the age of two? How would she make it through 2 ½ hours without her lovey, Puppy? She was still in diapers, how would that be managed? She really hadn’t spent any extended time with any adult other than the two of us and Sherrie, her nanny. Would these teachers at Cobble Hill Playgroup appreciate her energy, her spunk, her quirkiness, her sensitivity? We decided to view Julia’s first two years of preschool as an organized playdate, and if nothing else, hope she learned that there were expectations and rules for working together in a classroom environment. What happened was beyond our wildest expectations.
First day of phase in, Julia was so excited to be at school, though she still wasn’t quite sure what school was. A bigger boy was building an intricate tower of blocks. Julia marched over to him, and smacked the tower down. When the bigger boy protested, she then proceeded to hit HIM. I watched, a little horror stricken, but interested to see how the teachers would react. A teacher walked over to Julia, removed her from the situation, and got her set up with another activity, away from the clearly upset older boy. In that moment I was sold. Age appropriate, gentle, but effective classroom management. The message was clearly sent that hitting and knocking down someone else’s work is not acceptable, but not with an admonishing, demeaning tone.
The routine of school quickly became a part of our family’s week. Daddy walked Julia to school (rather, strolled her to school those first two years), our sitter picked her up. After a while, we forgot we were writing tuition checks. It was just a place Julia went twice a week. Most days the only information we got about school was that she sang “Old-De-Donald” and that she pooped in her diaper. And then magic happened. Julia and I were waiting on the train around December. The train pulled into the station and Julia said, “Look, the 4 train!” and it was. And I hadn’t taught her what a four looked like.
Many moments have happened since then that have reinforced our choice to send Julia to preschool at the tender age of two. She has thought about her role in the world, learned about recycling and holidays, and owl pellets and words. She has learned to spell, learned to read, and overcome her intense phobia of worms through a worm study. She has learned to get along with others and that school has a routine and a predictability to it. She has learned to ask questions and satisfy her curiosity. She has learned to LOVE school and LOVE her teachers.
I am dreading pick up today, dreading the final good-byes, dreading the heartfelt words that I know I will hear from her preschool head and teachers, dreading the tears that will inevitably come, dreading the end of this phase. Closing a chapter of your life is difficult, particularly when closing that chapter of your life means your baby girl is growing up and becoming more and more independent each day. I joke with Julia that I am going to strap a cinder block to her head because she is getting so big and tall and self-sufficient. But it's all relative. I remember thinking my big preschool girl was HUGE back in 2007. And look at her now.