Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Good-bye My Little Preschooler, Hello Little Girl
Tomorrow morning E1 will walk with her mom into a kindergarten classroom and cast aside the title of preschooler. It's a momentous day.
In many ways sending my oldest grandchild off to school is a bigger deal than when my firstborn started school. The children's mother had been in an organized preschool for a couple of years or maybe longer. She'd already been navigating the society of kids her age for a long time. I'd been leaving her with sitters since she was six weeks old.
For most of her life I'd been trusting someone else with her well being a portion of the time. I had to work. Her grandparents worked. Family care was not an option.
So school for my little girl was just a different place and different people. It was walking in on her own and learning new lessons.
She also was closer than she had been at preschool. If she were sick, or, God forbid, had a splinter she wouldn't let the school nurse touch, most of the time I was just a few blocks away. Working at the local newspaper I knew the people at her school and was in and out on a regular basis long before she sat foot in the doors. It wasn't a new place to me either.
Besides there had never been a school shooting, bullies didn't pick on cute little girls, and the world felt like a safe place.
Now two and a half decades later, school isn't always a safe haven of learning and growing. I've seen girls in preschool gymnastics already huddling in the snobby little cliches their mothers probably inhabited. Random gunmen have killed small children in schools more than once. And unlike my own children, E1 hasn't been thrust into someone else's care for much of her childhood.
She's been with her parents and grandparents -- people who love her and would die for her, people who always have her best interests at heart, people who try to protect her from the unsavory bits of life as long as possible. (Yes, all right, she's been with me a lot of the time and I'll miss her doggone it.)
Her friends and playmates have been the children (and sometimes grandchildren) of our friends. They are a group of kids we know things about raised by people we know things about.
The children who become her friends may be temporary or lifelong confidants. Either way they'll influence her decisions and help her choose good or bad.
They may use drugs and fight(or not fight) addiction together like Ethan and his friends, or they may show up with their new baby at a birthday party like my daughter's bestie did last weekend.
There's no crystal ball to guide us; no longer a way to filter and protect her.
It seems at times a precarious place for a 5-year-old, but at the same time a wonderful place. So much to learn and discover, so much about herself that she's just going to start to know, and the fact that now, at least, the mistakes are usually easy to correct and the right path not so hard to find, helps mitigate the terror of the unknown.
Today I said goodbye to our preschooler. Tomorrow I'll begin learning about our little girl.