“Mom, don’t come downstairs yet. I want to surprise you,” says my almost 5-year-old daughter from the front hall.
“OK,” I call down, smiling to myself as I dilly-dally on the landing, giving her time to finish her “surprise.”
“I’m ready!” she says a minute later. Her shoes and socks are on, her sweatshirt zipped up, and her water bottle filled and in her lunchbox. She even put a bow barrette in her hair. In her final few weeks of preschool, my daughter is thrilled with all she can do by herself.
It’s hard to believe her preschool years are coming to an end along with the completion of so many milestones: five intelligible words have grown into a full vocabulary; walking morphed into running, hopping and skipping; finger painting gave way to purposeful brushstrokes; she no longer describes her emotions as simply happy, sad, or angry, but also ecstatic, disappointed, and frustrated.
I have no doubt my third and final child will be ready for kindergarten in the fall, as will I. That said, leaving the preschool years and that phase of motherhood behind has got me feeling sentimental. Here are five warm and fuzzy reasons I’m going to miss preschool:
1. Showing Up Late Isn’t the End of the World
I have two older kids and getting them out the door on time for school is a whirlwind of chaos and stress. That’s because showing up late for elementary school can come with pretty serious consequences. They might miss part of a lesson, and at some schools, too many tardy arrivals count against your child’s overall grade. Not so in preschool. After my big girls leave for school, my 4-year-old and I might read one more book or finish making playdough cookies before we go. The extra time together is worth being late, especially because I know as she grows older, we’ll have less time to just be together.
2. The Artwork
I know, I know, we all complain about the copious amount of “artwork” our little ones bring home from preschool. For the healthy psyches of our children, we enthusiastically receive sheet after sheet of finger paintings, rocket ships made out of tin foil, and toilet paper rolls and landscapes featuring glued on leaves and sticks while secretly plotting to recycle as much of it as we can as soon as possible. The truth is, once kids reach kindergarten, the opportunities to make art whittle down quite a bit. For all my complaining about the piles of paintings, drawings, pipe cleaner sculptures, and teeny, tiny folded glitter flowers, I’m going to miss sifting through it all as my girl tells me all about the adventures of the warrior princess, dragon, and overgrown rabbit she’s drawn on the page.
3. Being Able to Hang Out in the Classroom
Most mornings and some afternoons, I stick around for a few minutes to see what’s new in the classroom (caterpillars munching on milkweed, the imaginary play area set up as a veterinary clinic), say hello to my daughter’s little friends, and give my girl an extra hug and kiss goodbye. Next year, the day starts promptly at 8:15 a.m. and after the first week or so, we’ll be asked to say our goodbyes at the door. Pick-up happens outside. As our kids grow up and into themselves, there’s less opportunity for parents to connect in the classroom. This is a normal next stage, but realizing I won’t know as much about my child’s day-to-day experiences takes some getting used to.
4. Sand in Her Shoes
OK, so I’m not really going to miss the daily bucketful of sand that finds its way out of her purple sneakers and onto the floor of the car, the front walkway, and even the kitchen chairs despite having been dumped in the grass before coming inside. What I will miss, though, is what that sand represents: time spent running and playing, pouring and sifting, building and experimenting. Next year she’ll spend more time inside than out, still learning, but in a different way. I’m thankful there won’t be as much sand in my life, but knowing my girl is moving through the carefree years of childhood and into the more serious business of becoming a student is bittersweet.
5. The Village
When our kids are young, we really do rely on our expanded villages to raise them. In the first few years, it’s our moms group. In preschool, it’s the other parents and the teachers. I know and trust all the families in my daughter’s class as well as the teachers in each of the three classrooms and the directors. In return, my daughter is known and cherished by these wonderful adults. They might notice something’s off about her (she might be coming down with a cold) or let me know about an important developmental or social event. As a kindergartner in a larger school, my daughter won’t receive the same kind of attention she does now in preschool, and I certainly won’t know as many families. Her classroom teachers will, of course, be our primary points of contact, but that cozy community feel you get in preschool is harder to recreate on a larger scale.
Leaving the preschool years behind isn’t easy. I know my daughter and I will eventually get used to the new schedule, have to make more of an effort at home to do art, run around like wild things, and download about the school day. I plan to savor these last few weeks of preschool with unhurried mornings and lots of loitering in the classroom. Now, please excuse me while I fish that artwork out of the recycling bin.