I simply cannot believe my little preemie is finishing preschool! Where did these past four years go?
She started school in Pre-K 2, going a few hours a week. The Pre-K 4 kids had always looked so big to me. It was so hard to believe my baby would one day seem so big. It is amazing how much she has grown.
I am really grateful for my daughter’s preschool. They have done such a good job balancing kindness and compassion with structure and discipline. My daughter has grown and learned so much while there. While she was learning her lessons and growing as a person, I feel I was growing and learning as a parent at the same time.
From listening to her stories, it seems the following lessons are what she will take away from her years spent at her preschool:
1. You get what you get and you don’t get upset.
When my daughter was just two, she came home and fed me the above line at the dinner table. I almost fell off my chair and asked her to repeat it. Apparently, this was a big phrase used by the teachers in the class; you know, during snack time, or when art supplies were handed out, or when the students were told what their jobs were for the day. I immediately took this phrase to heart and have applied it to my grown up life – my infertility issues, the fact that I will never be athletic enough to go to the Olympics, the parking space I didn’t get in the mall parking lot among other things. This phrase is the tot version of the Serenity Prayer, “Accept the things I cannot change.”
2. People can be mean for no good reason and not everyone is going to like you.
Last year in Pre-K 3, my daughter had her first taste of how mean other kids can be. It is a cruel, awful reality that not everyone is going to like you, and sometimes people are mean to you for no good reason. For some reason, my daughter had this fascination with a little blonde girl in class. There were various mean things said to my daughter by this girl throughout the year. One day my daughter came home and said, “Suzy said I couldn’t go over to her house because I have curly black hair. Only girls with blonde straight hair can come to her house.” I was livid and upset for my daughter who just wanted to be friends with this girl. I was also frustrated because my daughter refused to stay away from this girl and continued to want to try and be friends with her.
But, whenever there was an issue my daughter came to talk to me about it – and we figured out ways to cope with the issue and ways she could stick up for herself and express her feelings. For instance, the next school day my daughter went up to this girl and said what we rehearsed, “You really hurt my feelings when you said I couldn’t come to your house.” The girl replied, “Well I guess you can come over, but you have to take your shoes off at the door like everyone else.” We never did go over for a play date, but I feel that my daughter is starting to learn how to cope with meanness and figure out how to pick friends. My hope is that my daughter keeps feeling comfortable speaking to me about all of this.
3. The opposite sex can sometimes seem like they are from another planet.
Boys and girls can be SO different! Just check out the self-help section of any bookstore, there are hundreds of books about males and females and how to navigate their differences. My daughter does not understand why some boys will get in her face and yell, or chase after her or, when she was really young, drive trucks into her feet. I can’t tell you how many of the moms will come to me as we wait for class and say, my son always talks about your daughter and how much he likes her. It is those same boys whom my daughter will sometimes complain about. She doesn’t get why if a boy likes her he will do things to annoy her. I feel like her time spent with the boys in class are the first of many life lessons she will learn in dealing with the opposite sex.
4. No one is the line leader every day.
In my daughter’s classroom there is a list of six classroom tasks that get rotated among the students every day. The most coveted position by far is the “line leader.” The line leader is at the front of the procession line as the students travel to and from the gym or outside to play. Everyone wants to be the line leader. Every time my daughter was the line leader, she came home raving about her day. When she was stuck in the middle of the line, she was not happy. I think it is such a valuable lesson, not only in learning to take turns, but also in having every kid feel special and important and having every kid let someone else have that special and important job. We all have different gifts in life, and in some things we are rock stars in our own right and in other things, we struggle and do not stand out as much. I think both are equally as important.
5. When you fall down, you get back up; if you can’t get up, ask for help.
I remember leaving my daughter in her Pre-K 2 classroom for the first time. Luckily, I did not have to deal with her crying for the first 6 weeks like other moms at drop off. (By the way, stay strong, moms who have to deal with the crying at drop off. Trust your child’s teacher, your child will stop crying eventually and your child will have a good time and be stronger for it.) But I was the one who was crying and a wreck, not my daughter. What if she needed me and I wasn’t there? What if she gets hurt, or sick or sad?
Over the past three years she has had scrapes and bruises, some not on her teacher’s radar and some that were fixed with a Band-Aid from the principal. My daughter even threw up once in class due to the sudden onset of a stomach virus. But she survived and learned to cope without me. She has learned to self soothe and reach out to other trusted adults when she is in trouble. These are skills that she didn’t learn at home with me, but are invaluable skills she will need throughout her entire life.
The start of a new school year is only a few short months away! I always think about all of the parents who are sending their little one to school for the first time. It honestly was harder on me than my daughter. But I know for many families, it is equally hard on both. But know that although change can be hard, it is the only thing that makes us grow as people. My daughter has grown so much in these past few years. Next stop: Kindergarten!