Almost five years ago, on September 8, 2009, we took our first born kid to preschool. He was barely three and was going through a serious case of separation anxiety. As I walked away, he screamed and cried. The preschool director held him tightly in a chair and, when he realized I was leaving him there, he kicked her in the gut. I thought that might be it. One day of school was all we were going to get. But that day turned into five years.
Garrett's first day of school at school
I hugged her today and thanked her for the role she has played in the lives of my children. Garrett spent three years there and, while it was a little sad on his last day, I knew that Matthew would start the following fall.
Today, though, was a different story. I walked away from school knowing that I wouldn't go back next year with another preschooler. Today, my youngest son became a kindergartner. He sat on the front step and smiled for a "Last Day of Preschool" picture.
And, can I just say that THIS ONE IS A KEEPER?
Look at his smile. I mean, LOOK at it. How have modeling agencies not stumbled upon my blog and called me up and said, "Hello. Mrs. Livin' in a Fishbowl? We need your son for ALL of the ads." At the end of the year performance, which for us happened on June 6, the teachers recognize each child with a specific award, unique to him. Matthew got the Killer Smile award and his teacher said that he can flash it and get just about whatever he wants.
His smile melts my heart. Every time.
So here's Mr. Killer Smile on his first and last day of preschool.
At his preschool orientation, I completely threw my kid under the bus by telling his teachers--two women I'd never met before in my life--that he was very difficult, that we needed to be proactive, that we had to forge a partnership that would effectively get him from point A (preschool) to point B (the rest of his life). Alright, so I didn't say it in so many words but whatever words I did use were met with the blinking stares of two women who either thought I was bat poo crazy or were suddenly terrified by the horror child I'd just described to them.
But this kid has been proving me wrong since day one. He had his downs but the ups outweighed them. He grew and changed and blossomed and became. He stopped being afraid to try.
This year he had one new teacher and one of the ones he'd had last year--at my request, because she was simply amazing with him. Over the five years, we have had nine different teachers (there are two in every class) and so many of them were phenomenal. But none impressed me as much as Miss Veronica. To put it as simply as I can, I love her.
In just 21 months, my child went from a kid who wouldn't even try to tell me his colors for fear he'd get them wrong to a child who is fluently reading kindergarten material--a kid who got ALL "Excellent" on his progress report. He is ready to head to elementary school.
Being that it was the last day of school, today was a carnival day and the kids were encouraged to dress up. I sure do love a man in a uniform.
When I dropped him off I called my mom to brag about how I was TOTALLY COOL WITH ALL THIS GROWING UP STUFF. Don't mind me. I'm just an unemotional statue who can't get worked up to save my life. In my theatre days I'd wonder how, on earth, I was supposed to conjure up some real tears. "Think of your dead dog," they'd say. Yep. I had a dead dog. I'd cried a lot when she actually died but thinking about her being dead didn't make me well up a handful of years later. It's not that I don't FEEL things. It's just that those things don't come out my eyes. So I left him at his last day of preschool and all my babies are all grown up and ONE DAY THEY WILL LEAVE ME. Eh. What's next on my to-do list?
When I picked him up, his classroom was full of moms picking up their kids--and two crying teachers. I was sad because I love his teachers and I'll miss them a lot but also happy because ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IS FREE! I was thinking the happy thoughts until his beloved Miss Veronica hugged me. "Thank you for trusting me with him for two years," she said through tears. "He's improved so much. I just love him." We talked for a few minutes.
Suddenly I started to feel a teeny lump. Nothing I couldn't swallow down. We hugged his other teacher.
A few minutes later, we left the room and walked down the hall. I hugged the director. I thanked her for taking care of my boys for five years. The lump persisted. We hugged his other teacher from last year. STUPID LUMP.
I held his hand as we walked out the door and through the parking lot. "I can't believe you're already a kindergartner!" I said to him. But the word kindergartner got stuck in the back of my throat and I lost control of the lump. Tears spilled down my cheeks. I wiped them away but, somehow, more followed.
He's ready. And, really, I'm ready, too. Except on the days when I'm not.