Welcome to a new school year!
As a teacher/administrator, I’m required to complete 20 hours of professional development a year. This past weekend, I completed approximately 72 of the most educational hours I’ve had in a long time, and will not get credit for a single one.
What did I do? I spent the weekend with my niece and her children. Since I played an active role in her life in her baby/preschool years, her children are very dear to my heart.
Her daughter is three and a half months old; her son, just turned three and started preschool! I arrived Friday afternoon, just in time to pick him up from his new class. As I’m sure you can imagine, the preschool teacher/director just MIGHT have an opinion about another preschool program! I looked in the door, and he was sitting on the rug near the teacher, legs straight out in front of him as they sing “Five Green and Speckled Frogs.” He sees me, grins, and points to me. He looks at his teacher, and points to me again. We live four hours apart and Face Time frequently, but here I am in person!
The family’s view. A little boy on a big playground.
Side note: On the drive down, I was imagining him telling his teacher that “Anka Ger” is coming today. If that were me, I’d have no clue what an ankager was! (I think “Anka” might be a twist on “Great Aunt,” or maybe “uncle.”) Who knows. I love it. I don’t want it to change!
The classroom was bright and decorated in primary colors (which I happen to love!) The teacher is experienced and seems gentle. I asked her if he could show me around, and she said, “We’re getting ready for dismissal.” (Which means of course, “Please don’t linger!”) I then asked if I could take a few pictures, and she said, “Sure!” I quickly took two and we left.
Then we went out on the playground, where he ran around with many other children. His preschool is part of an elementary school, so the climbing equipment is for all ages. I stood by him as he climbed one apparatus and watched as he tested his ability to reach across to another part. He tried to reach. Readjusted. Tried to step. Brought his foot back. I was so proud that he tried several different ways, but in the end, realized he wasn’t comfortable with the next level. “YES!” thought the educator, children have an innate sense of what they can do! Go Kiddo!
Mom is smiling, encouraging him, yet reaching out. Letting our children out of our reach can be a challenge!
He started climbing what seemed to me to be an impossibly high twisted ladder-type structure. He was over our heads. The “children know what they can do” educator flew quickly away and there I was, “Anka Ger,” watching my little love out of my reach! Should I stand behind him, if he fell backwards, should I stand in front, in case he flipped forward? (His mom and I tried to cover all the bases.) In addition, this confident little just turned three year old, wanted to show us how he can stand on one foot while way up high! Oh, he’s growing up, but he’s not THAT grown up!
“Please put your foot back, hold on, don’t let go…”
Saturday night, we hear this horrible seal-like barking. My poor little buddy had the croup! It was so frightening. His mom took him to urgent care, where they gave him oral medication and a nebulizer. The nebulizer terrified him because the nurses put it on roughly, and it was hitting his eyes. He didn’t know what was going on. They returned home at 2 AM. My heart melted as this little boy, barefoot in his pajamas, walked in tiredly and told me, “I feel bettah.”
The weekend was a crash course refresher of what it’s like to parent a preschooler. When you add an infant into the mix, life gets even more interesting!
What did I learn? I learned that I needed a reminder. A reminder of what life is like at home.
On the first day of school, I’ll welcome back our younger children from last year, who are now the oldest! The new “threes” will enter, some confidently, others with tears. I will be surprised at how little they seem in comparison to last year’s “little ones.” However, I’ll see them as capable young people who are learning. While I don’t expect them to be able to sit through circle time right away, I know they will eventually. I’ll encourage them to take off and put on their own jackets and shoes. They will pour their own drinks and clean up after themselves. I will encourage their independence. I will encourage them to climb and take the next step.
I’ll also remember that at home, they are the loves of your life. They are your little ones, children with cute baby words that you don’t want them to outgrow, your babies that you’ve ached for when they’re sick. I also know that watching them take these next steps can be scary for you. It can be hard to let go.
In a parent co-op, we’ll work together. You’ll help me to see the child in your heart, the baby you’ve watched grow. I’ll help you to see what your child can accomplish, the new stages s/he’s is ready to enter.
To my great-nephew’s preschool teacher: After three days of school, he loves your program. He’s ready to learn, but I’m not sure his family will be ready for some of the new “heights” he wants to reach! Help him to be a thinker, a learner. Help him to develop his skills. However, please don’t tell him that the word is really “aunt.” He’ll grow up soon enough. I’d like to be “Anka Ger” for as long as possible.