In a few days, my youngest child will graduate from preschool. It will be the end of an era for our family. I have two daughters, and almost continuously for nearly six years, one or the other of them has been enrolled in the preschool classes at our community center. Preschool has become part of the fabric of our family’s life. We mark the passing seasons and years with field trips, class holiday parties, and gluey craft projects. The teacher who runs the program is like a member of our family.
For more than half a decade, at least one of my daughters has been in preschool.
They’ve kept busy painting, singing, playing house with the toy kitchen, pulling friends in wagons in the community center gym, using the foot pedal on Miss Anne’s sewing machine to make a class quilt, playing with play dough, going on field trips to the zoo, and making paper mache piñatas. The wall in my kitchen where I hang my daughters’ art projects is full of preschool masterpieces. Our basement playroom is home to a collection of “robots” made from empty cereal and macaroni and cheese boxes hot glued together (with help from the teacher) each spring when the kids learn about recycling and reusing. On my front porch every December, I set out a growing flock of decorative snowmen made from painted patio paver stones.
It was January of 2012 when my family first walked through the door of the single preschool classroom tucked into a lower-floor corner of our community center building, the domain of teacher Miss Anne. My oldest daughter was a few weeks shy of her 4th birthday and ready to face the world, and I needed a small break because I was caring for her newborn sister at home. Megan quickly came to love Miss Anne’s class. She spent a year and a half in preschool and then moved on to kindergarten at our neighborhood elementary school.
For just a few months, none of my children were in Miss Anne’s class. Then my youngest daughter turned 2 and was old enough to attend the class for the youngest of preschoolers. I normally would have waited to send my child to preschool until she was 3 or 4 years old, but I wanted to
spy volunteer in Megan’s kindergarten class and I needed somewhere for Abby to hang out during that time. Enrolling Abby in Miss Anne’s class was the logical choice because I knew she would be in good hands.
Miss Anne unknowingly helped me retain my sanity twice – first when I desperately needed someplace for my older daughter to go a few times a week while I was caring for a newborn, and second when I felt a strong pull to be involved at my older daughter’s new school, because it’s hard to send your first baby to kindergarten in an unfamiliar big school building.
Now, here I am on the threshold of sending my second and last baby to kindergarten.
Thankfully, I feel better about sending my last baby to kindergarten, now that we’ve had a few years to get to know the school and have come to trust the staff there.
We’ve had a good, long run in preschool, though. My youngest especially has spent a long time in the program — almost four years — from age two through age 5 1/2. Before she was a student, she tagged along as an infant and toddler on her big sister’s field trip and party days. As a result, she’s practically been going to preschool her entire life. Abby can explain precise details and protocol for morning calendar time, snack cleanup, and how center time works. She’s had so many show-and-tell days she’s brought duplicates a few times. She knows every verse to the song Down By the Bay. After all these years, I still have never seen a bear combing his hair.
As a veteran parent volunteer, I know where the snack time water cups are stashed, how to mix the powdered paint with water for the painting table, and how to work the community center oven when the kids make cookies to give to center staff for Christmas. I know the agenda for every holiday party: costume parade for Halloween, old-school Alvin and the Chipmunks movie and visit from Santa for Christmas, piñata made by the children for Valentine’s Day, a visit from the Easter Bunny and an egg hunt with real hard-boiled eggs – hidden by the parents – for Easter. Over the years, I have been on at least four pumpkin patch field trips, four zoo field trips, four fire station field trips, three grocery store field trips, three doughnut shop field trips, two library field trips, and on one MetroLink ride downtown to the dental health theater.
I feel sad and nostalgic about leaving this all behind, but at times this past year I’ve felt a creeping weariness over the sameness of the routine year in and year out. I love the preschool curriculum, but we’ve done it for so many years. It’s helped me to look forward to the coming changes.
There are only two class days left. After that, it will be the first time in nearly six years that I haven’t had a child in Miss Anne’s preschool class. It is the end of one era for our family. And the beginning of a new one.
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