Hand in hand, mother and daughter walked down the stairs. Shawna and I, both nervous about what was to come, were on an adventure visiting the preschool she would soon be attending.
The room was alive with color! Shapes, numbers, and letters decorated the walls. Child-size places were just waiting to be explored, and little chairs sat empty at little tables awaiting the arrival of this year’s students. There were musical instruments to be played, a loft to climb into, and a reading area underneath with just the right books to entice little ones! This little play place was lovingly nestled in the basement of the teacher’s home. Jan’s love for children was unmatched, and her reputation had garnered a long waiting list to be one of her students, with many names added to the list before they were born, Shawna’s included!
We talked with Jan, and met her daughter, Sheila, who would be a classmate. The girls exchanged shy glances, as we adults visited. In just a few days, my daughter would be playing and learning alongside Sheila and other little ones.
The first day was August 26th – just a month after Shawna’s third birthday. She’d be one of the youngest in her class all the way through school! Hand in hand, mother and daughter walked down those stairs – again! At the bottom, she was greeted by Jan, and entered that magical wonderland for children. Several others were already there and the play had begun in earnest! It was evident the first day would be a good one as excitement filled the room, and the sound was so sweet!
I waited a minute or two, just to see that Shawna was okay, then quietly slipped up the stairs. My little girl was playing with other kids, and somewhat oblivious to my departure. I knew she was in good hands, and hadn’t wanted any of the expected tears as I left, but halfway up the stairs, I heard her! “Mommy,” she hollered from the bottom of the stairs! I stopped in my tracks. Busted! When I turned around, though, I saw our sweet little girl with a smile from ear to ear! “Bye, Mommy,” she said, then she ran off to play with her new friends.
I continued up the stairs and out the door with a lump in my throat as big as Alaska, and tear-filled eyes which tell the story many other moms can echo. It was the beginning of a letting-go process all parents know well!
A few months later, Jan hosted an open house for the students and their families. Shawna was so proud of what she’d been doing at school and couldn’t wait to give a grand tour. Her grandparents and young uncle accompanied us. Many little hands were holding bigger hands, leading them from corner to corner excitedly sharing about their school. Jan visited with adults, but especially connected with ‘her kids.’ Jan had met my husband and I, but as we approached, I intended to introduce her to Shawna’s other guests. But that didn’t happen! “Jan,” Shawna said excitedly,” this is my grandma, my grandpa, and my Uncle Jon!” Oh my goodness, when had this little girl grown up? Look out, world – here she comes!
It was thirty-two years ago I started letting go of this articulate, polite, growing-up-way-too-fast, three-year old! Today, she’s the one who greets ‘her kids’ on those all-important first days, and she’s the one who offers a quick all-knowing wink to the parents as they turn and walk away with lumps in their throats as big as Alaska! She’s also the one who holds a special spot in the hearts of former students, and their parents, as they do, in hers!