Here's a mom truth I'm not so proud of: I spent the majority of last summer consumed by how hard the day to day was. I was home alone every day with a four year old and a one year old, both of whom NEVER. STOP. MOVING. Their boundless energy exhausted me to the point of defeat almost every day. I tried to fill our time with swimming and popsicles and day trips and playgrounds, and I tried to be in the moment and enjoy my time with them both, but instead I found myself counting down the days until the first day of school. And then all of a sudden summer was over.
On the first day of school I stood with Belle at the flagpole as she got in line with her new classmates. And there you were: her teachers. Smiling, kneeling down at her level to say good morning, holding her hand, doing and saying all the right things to make her feel at ease. As I watched her follow you into school, she turned around, waved, and gave me that look: the one that told me she'd be ok. It was in that moment I realized she'd be spending more of her days with you, instead of me. Yes, she was in preschool last year, so I had been through the drop-off and teary goodbyes before. But that was different. It was only a few days a week for a few hours at a time. Now, she was beginning real school. Monday through Friday, six hours a day.
This was officially the end of her time at home with me and the beginning of what life would be like for the next 18 years. She didn't have any sort of understanding of these facts, but I did. And to make matters worse, I felt like I wished away our last few weeks of summer because of the aforementioned exhaustion. But that's when the lightbulb went off: I was exhausted because I'd given her everything I could. I was ready. And she was exhausting because she was ready. She needed more.
For four years I taught her everything. How to eat, sleep, play, talk, crawl, walk, run, climb, everything. I read her endless books, took her on walks, explored every playground in a 20 mile radius. I taught her to sing and to swim and to dance. I taught her how to share and to be curious and I taught her that sometimes one needs a time out (even moms). Sure, there's a lot more I'll need and want to teach her as she grows. My work here isn't done by any means. As my own mom says "she's not fully cooked."
She came to you ready to learn more than what I could teach her at home. And you were ready. YOU, her pre-k teachers, were her first school teachers. The people who gave her that first impression of what education really is. Over the next 18 years she'll have dozens and dozens of teachers. But you will always be her first. You set the groundwork. In her first year of school, you kept her safe. You calmed her fears when she tried new things. You built her confidence from the ground up. You helped her navigate the complicated world of making friends and learning to understand other personalities and you showed her kindness and how important it is in our world. You nurtured her curiosity and taught her to ask questions (so. many. questions.), you taught her to write every letter in the alphabet and to rhyme and to pay attention to the sounds that each word makes. You taught her to love her faith. You gave her responsibilities she was proud to have (line leader is her favorite) and in turn taught her the importance of patience and letting others have a chance, too.
You even made sure she ate the healthy stuff in her lunch box before she had the treat I packed each day. You helped me realize her broken finger wasn't healing when you noticed she wasn't using that hand to write. It was moments like this where I learned how the mom role and the teacher role overlap - they have to - because of the fact that broke my heart at the beginning of the year: you spend more time with her than I do. And now that fact doesn't break my heart anymore. Not even a little. I've learned that she needs more than just me. This year, she needed you for all of the reasons above. She needed to learn that school was a safe place. A fun place. A place to grow and make friends and soak up as much knowledge as she can. You taught her all of that. You taught us both so, so much. And all you asked for in return was a few boxes of tissues and Clorox wipes.
The other day, as we drove to school, she said "Mommy, I'm sad that Rosie gets to spend so much time with you. I go to school every day, and she gets to stay home with you." The realization that I had on the first day of school took her exactly 8 months to come to. She didn't miss me because she had you. She didn't need me because she had you. She didn't feel like she was missing out on anything at home because she had adventures of her very own every day at school. She loves school because of you. And now, as her first year of real school comes to an end, we're both ready for summer to start.
Simply saying Thank You doesn't seem big enough....but THANK YOU. You built the very foundation her education will grow from, and for that I could not be more grateful.