Thursday, August 14, 2014

Moving On (With Mixed Emotions)

I never thought I’d feel anything but pure, unadulterated joy when I no longer had to pay for childcare  - but as I dropped my son off for his last day at A Child’s Garden, those were not tears of joy seeping from my eyes. Turns out, I’m really going to miss that place. As will my son!

Eli has been going to A Child’s Garden since he was five months old. Like most parents, when we made the decision to put our kid in daycare, we felt guilty, thinking, “No one can give our kid the same love and care that we can,” – but they did. So much so that we still felt guilty, only it changed to, “We can never provide as much fun, education, interaction as they can!”

On rare days off, it was a constant struggle to keep up with what he had come to expect from the day. By lunch time, I was the one needing the nap. And we only had the one kid! I still have no idea how they did it, but I was continually amazed at what he came home with, be it artwork, a new skill, vocabulary, even mannerisms. He wasn't just being watched, He was being raised. By people who loved and appreciated him almost as much as we did.

Each new year brought a twinge of trepidation, as every time Eli was transitioned up, we worried that the next room’s teachers could never be as good as the previous ones. But from Miss Jane in the baby room to Miss Kim with the toddlers and Miss ‘Sette in the 3-4-year olds up to Mr. Ben in with the five-year olds, we were always happy and comfortable with who was taking care of our boy. And there were MANY more, but I don't want to start naming them, as I’m afraid to leave someone out. Suffice to say, we loved EVERYONE!

On the days when I picked our son up, I always tried to sneak into the room so I could catch him in action (otherwise, he’d drop what he was doing and rush over to give me a big hug), and I was always impressed with what they were doing. I’d often walk in to find over a dozen 3- and 4-year olds seated around a table, conducting an elaborate science experiment – and NO ONE was ever arguing, or messing with things they weren’t supposed to, or clamoring over who was next. They were always fully engaged and active learners. My wife and I are both veteran elementary school teachers, and it was eye-opening (and a bit embarrassing) to see the staff getting pre-schoolers to cooperate and participate with such interest, while we struggled to get our 6th graders to simply stay in their seats!

And not only did they have fun, they learned! I’ll never forget bringing Eli to visit my mom one summer afternoon when he was around three. A thunderstorm came rolling through, and when Eli jumped at a particularly loud rumble of thunder, my mom tried to calm him by saying, “Don’t worry, that’s just the angels bowling.” Eli looked her dead in the eye and said, “No, it’s not. It’s the sound of a warm and cold front coming together.”  My mom looked at me, as if to say, “Where does he get this stuff?” But I knew right away. It was Miss ‘Sette!

There are so many examples of things my son learned without our assistance. Sure, we helped, but it was at A Child’s Garden where he first started to dress himself, use the potty, clean up after himself (still has not mastered THAT one at home!) read and write, count money, tell time, play fair, share, show compassion, use his manners, draw, color, feed himself, walk a balance beam, celebrate the holidays (even ones I never knew existed), dress up, dress down, cut, glue, pedal, meet fireman and policemen and magicians and Santa, nap, build, climb, jump, dance, sing, and smile, smile, smile. We have an entire wall in our kitchen cover with photographs taken at school (and the other three walls covered in artwork created there) And in every picture, and on every drawing, is a smile.  

Here’s proof, in case you don’t believe me:

Five years of smiles and support and sincere concern for my child’s well-being. Five years of Open Houses and family picnics and holiday celebrations. Five years of summer camps and Back to School nights and birthday parties (OMG the birthday parties! I’ll shed no tears if I never step foot in Bounce U again!) Five years of making multi-course lunches and making sure the backpack was packed (and ALWAYS making drop-off and pick-up on time, but only because they open early and close late!) And most importantly, five years of never having to worry about what was going on with my kid between the hours of 8-4, M-F, as I knew he was safe, happy, and engaged. 

Five years that felt like five months. And now my son is off to kindergarten. I KNOW he’s prepared. I KNOW he’s ready. I KNOW he’s excited. And I know just who to thank for it. A Child’s Garden.

I just never knew I’D be the one so sad to say goodbye L

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