Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Miles To Go Before I Sleep

I smell a major life transition, and I don't like it. I never like it. Nope, no change, not for me. Let's have infinite stasis, thank you very much. Weird thing is, I tend to be very happy once the change kicks in, happier than before. But the idea of it: absolutely not.

Jarrah's last day of preschool is Friday. That's two days from now. She's been at Price Family Preschool for four years--yes, I know that's a lot of preschool. When we arrived, in the fall of 2006 for a "mommy and me" class, she was a large, mute baby who pointed with dismay when a big girl threw her shoes into the ball pit. When they passed out Shabbat snacks, Jarrah gobbled hers and then whined with annoyance when I pushed all the rest out of her reach. I felt self-conscious around the other "Tot Shabbat" moms, wondering if they were staring at us because my kid was Chinese.

In January of 2007, Jarrah began Barbara and Janet's class, with the two-year-olds. She would remain there for two years, bypassing Colleen and Teri's room (Colleen, I will never forget your kind smile and your reassurance about kindergarten, and Teri, I wish I had gotten to know you!) Who knows why? These decisions are made by wiser heads than mine. On the first day, David and I braced ourselves for wailing and knee-clinging which never came. She spotted the tool bench (that's my girl) and by the time she looked up, we were long gone. At the end of the day, Janet said "Let me tell you about your daughter--we're all falling in love with her!" And I cried. Beautiful and brave Janet, who changed hundreds of terrifying diapers those many months, and was always ready with band-aids and kisses for owies. And Barbara, I will never forget your refreshing New York directness, your warmth and humor, how you made me laugh and told me the truth.

Potty-training just under the wire in the summer of 2008, Jarrah was ready for Ilene and (different) Janet's class that fall, and just blossomed. She talked up a storm, knew all her friends' names, learned to write her own name without being taught. She drew complicated scenes and made up the most incredible stories. She'd come home with pictures labeled "my favorite food is broccoli" and "here are my 16 brothers and sisters" and "mommy and I enjoy canning our own preserves" and you get the idea. Ilene, I will never forget how you hugged my kid and called her "my Jar-Bear" and "lovey" (which she co-opted) and always asked about my day. And Janet, I still miss our heart-to-hearts when the kids were on the playground and you were cutting out craft supplies for the next day.

I was so nervous at the start of Rachell and Shiri's class in the fall of 2009. They were the ones I didn't know, and right away I could tell there would be far less hugging than in previous years. The kids had responsibilities like "weather reporter" and sometimes they had homework (well, I had homework.) But as the months passed, I could see it was all part of the plan. Subtly and sweetly, R and S coaxed all the kids into independence. They got them ready to launch into the world, not just ready, but eager. When Rachell told me that Jarrah is "such a good friend," I cried. At my first ever parent-teacher conference, she and Shiri said she was "bright, confident, warm, imaginative and completely open to new experiences." I cried at that, too.

And now it's the end of this particular road. Each year, the school presents a "Shalom Program" on the last day, and each class sings a bunch of songs for parents and friends. The oldest class sings the most--they are bold and hammy, remembering all the words and the gestures that jazz up the performance. I am weeping right now thinking of the part that makes me sob each year in terrible anticipation--the moment when the temple cantor, Myrna (she of the magic guitar) sings a song about the departing children, and when their name is mentioned, each child steps forward and waves. She sings them out of school, Readers. Can you take it? I can't.

The past few days, when I come to take Jarrah home, I don't go to her on the playground right away. I enter the cool, dark classroom (the lights are on a timer) and inhale that particular smell, a mix of paint and preschooler. I walk slowly around the room, running my fingers over the books, the blocks, the dress-up clothes, the play kitchen. I smile wistfully at the photos of "Swim Day" and "Snow Day" and "Israel's Birthday." I note that the picture on Jarrah's cubby, from last September, already looks so young to me. I see the clothespins, labeled with Sharpie, indicating who has what job this week. When I see that Jarrah is "Line Leader" in her final week of preschool, I tear up and look away.

It's not only on Jarrah's behalf that I'm verklempt at this transition. The preschool has become the hub of my life over the years, too. Some of my closest friends are "preschool parents." I know that our lives will change now, and we won't see each other as spontaneously. And though she doesn't really know it herself, Jarrah will be saying goodbye--maybe forever--to some of her friends, friends that she takes for granted she'll see everyday. That may not pain her, but it's almost unbearable to me.

And she does sense it. She's been watching her preschool video on an endless loop, adorable children smiling and waving with emotional music in the background (Thank you, Robyn! :)) I think she and I are both feeling nostalgic when we watch it together.

But change is good, right, Dear Readers? If you want to see video and photos from the Shalom Program, I know this much about the future: check back after Friday, and it will all be documented here.


Stephanie said...

Lovely tribute to the preschool I'm weepy too.

Logical Libby said...

Just breathe. The changes to come will be glorious!

Andrea said...

Beautifully said.... I'm in exactly the same place today, and you described the emotions perfectly and eloquently.
Tonight I'll be attending Sydney's end of year performance at her preschool, and I'm already weepy!

Caroline said...

I'm like you about change. Whenever possible, I research like crazy to aid in my "mental rehearsal." (Wasn't that term used in WW?)

And, singing them out of school? I'm crumbling at the very thought of it. I couldn't take it. Not at all. And I'd love it, too.

I hope the good new days are here soon so that this can become a fond memory instead of a bittersweet one.

Unknown said...

Gorgeous post! Thank you for a beautiful day... syn

Unknown said...

Gorgeous post! Thank you for a beautiful day... syn

Mrs. Chapman's 2nd Grade Class said...

You need to warn a girl before she reads a post like this one. I'm crying over here! Such a beautiful post. It sounds like an amazing experience for her and you. I know kinder will be different, but you will have beautiful things to write about her experience there too.

suebdo said...

Beautiful post Sam. It is an important transition and Jarrah will be pleased to have it captured for her to remember those moments in the future. My boys (collectively) spent 8 years at Children's World / Kindercare, beginning when Cameron was 1. They were our family, and I remember the laughter, classroom smells and traditions. When Cameron graduated, he begged to "go back for visits." Our center director let him "special guest star" for a week in the summer while Andrew was still enrolled. It was hard to leave and I still love running into teachers in town. Last week, we ran into the at an art fair. She said "Remember me? I'm Joanne the Children's World chef." And Cameron said (smirking), "Were you a real chef? Didn't you just really make saltines and grape juice?" She laughed, and said "At the time, you told me my saltines and grape juice were "5 Star!" - Boy they grow up fast. Cameron moves up to Middle School next week (heavy sigh). Misty watercolored memories ....

Mary said...

So sweet.



Melanie Sheridan said...

Very sweet! I'm sure Jarrah's teachers will appreciate it. Change is scary but it can be a good thing too. Sometimes I think it's harder on us than the kids! You're raising a great little girl.