Goodbye, Preschool

Today was Carla’s last day of preschool, and I’m grieving for the loss of the place and people who, except for my Lovely Bride and my firstborn, have been a constant in my life longer than anything else in the seven years we’ve been in Baltimore.

This place has outlasted friendships, jobs, cars and even our previous church stint.

It’s hard to let go.

Less than a year after we moved here, I started thinking about preschool for Eddie. I checked with the school at the church we had joined, but I got the frosty response that most people apply for preschool a year in advance. (I later learned this was true all over town – they weren’t just being snobby.) The church preschool said they were all full up and would only have an opening if a kid – and all his younger siblings – dropped dead. I visited a handful of schools – not really sure what to look for – and finally chose one where some playgroup pals were headed, just over a mile away. As a bonus, it actually had a diverse community of kids, which is hard to come by in Baltimore County.

Aside from marrying the woman I love and not renting a car to drive in Jamaica for New Year’s 2011, choosing this school has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

The school’s not perfect. There was the badly-handled biter in 2007. And the school office looks like a “before” shot on one of those TV makeover shows, though they never lost one of my checks. And despite spates of teacher turnover, they school always finds great replacements.

The solar system according to my preschooler's artistic rendering. I'm still grieving for Pluto, little Pluto. It's the farthest planet (not any more) from the sun. (Sorry, Interplanet Janet.)

The 4s class was ideally suited for the 4-year-old boy. To learn body parts, they traced themselves on butcher paper and adorned their Flat Stanley bodies with plastic bags for lungs, straws for the esophagus (and got to learn how it was different from the trachea), long balloons for the “big intestine” and “little intestine” and blue play-dough for poop. Especially at the supper table, Eddie loved getting to talk about poop. They also learned about planets and bugs and the ocean. Not to mention how to sit still for more than 10 seconds and not hit each other. And thanks to Miss Candace, they are fully versed in 80s pop music, which they would listen to each day.

When Eddie headed off to kindergarten and Carla came along for the 2s class, she toddled in without looking back. I think it broke my wife’s heart. But she had been going to school since my wife’s maternity leave ended, and I hauled her there twice a day in her car seat. Then when she got to the 4s class, I realized bodies and bugs and space were perfect for girls, too.

I’ve driven to this school every week for six years, and I’ll miss the incredible flexibility it offered. When I had more freelance work, I just had to ask that morning if my kid could stay for lunch bunch. They didn’t even ask if I had paid yet; they always said yes.

I’ll miss the parents I sat with on the playground after school, shooting the breeze about the typical parent stuff: naptime, sibling rivalry, where to go to kindergarten but eventually working our way to infertility treatments and how to train grandparents. I love that I figured out that once they’re 4, they can bring home friends after school without the other kid’s parent. And typically, they would keep each other busy enough for me to balance the checkbook. I regret that I didn’t bring more of Carla’s friends home to play.

I think the teacher I’ll miss most of all is Miss Annette, a relentlessly happy part-time yoga instructor. I haven’t had a kid in her class in more than a year, but she’s the first voice you hear when you come to school. She answered the door buzzer most of the time, and whether I was on time (rarely) or late (more likely), her voice brightened my day.

Bzzzzt.

“Good morning, who is it?”

“It’s Will M. … a little late with Carla for school.”

COME on in, Will M.!”

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