A bittersweet goodbye: Avery’s last day of preschool

I drove up to Avery’s preschool to pick her up one last time.

It’s the last day of school, and while other kids may be excited for summer to start, my girl has been sad. We’ve had many talks lately as I put her to bed about how she feels about this bittersweet ending. I have told her how proud I am of all of her hard work in school this year. I’ve reminded her about how she was nervous this year for school to start and that it turned out to be great, and the same will be true for her next year in kindergarten.

“There will be more good things,” I told her. “I promise.”

“Yeah, but Mom,” she says. “I won’t get to see Mrs. Kearney or Mrs. Miriam anymore.”

It’s true. She won’t get to see her teachers anymore, and I’ve told her that it’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to miss them.

I came to pick her up a little early so we’d have time to say a good goodbye. I was a little anxious that she might be feeling sad. What I didn’t expect, though, was that I would feel so sad.

As I walked into the classroom, there was controlled chaos as the teachers got the kids packed up and ready to go home. The tears just started coming, and it surprised me. I wasn’t exactly sure why I was crying. I’m not one to cry on the first day of school or mourn over each passing year as my kids get older. I’ve never done that. Instead, I’m always really excited for them to reach a new milestone, thrilled for them to embark on each new adventure.

Avery's ClassI realized that part of my sadness was for all of the wonderful memories that we made here. My girl loved to fly through the air on the swings on this playground, and this was where she conquered the monkey bars for the first time. She was never sad to see me go because she was so happy to be here. I loved to watch her get out of the car in whatever ridiculous outfit she had concocted that day. Sometimes, I would offer a weak shrug to her teacher as I dropped her off because she had decided to wear a pink cowgirl hat with a pirate bandanna and a princess dress.  She would yell out the car window to all of her friends on the playground, anxious to get there and begin her day.

I realized too, that my emotions also come from a place of deep gratitude for her teachers. One of the best ways that you can show love to me is to love on my children. And in the moment that I walked into her classroom for the last time, it hit me that my girl has been loved so very well.

“One of the best ways that you can show love to me is to love my children well.”

When we started this new preschool many months ago, I really only desired a few things. I wasn’t too concerned with academics; those will come. But I felt very strongly that the best way to set a good foundation for her academic future would be for her to learn to love school and love learning. For those things to happen, she would have to feel that she was safe and loved in this place. She had to know that there are other people in the world (besides our immediate family) that she could trust to take care of her. I had no idea how much her teachers would exceed my expectations.

I thought about the end of the year “Water Day” party that we had this week. The teachers set up a gigantic inflatable water slide and little pools to play in. They had snacks and treats and cake. They even created a mini car wash out of PVC pipes and pool noodles, and the kids thought it was unbelievable. Avery was out-of-her-mind excited for the entire two and a half hours, and she hasn’t stopped talking about it. It made me stop and think how much time and effort went into planning and executing something like this. And it’s not just that day- there were dozens of incredible things that made this a memorable year.

water day

It’s more than the fun events and creative projects, though. I am grateful for the kind and compassionate teachers who have loved my child like I want her to be loved. I never once had to worry about how they would care for her- physically, emotionally or spiritually. I knew that I was leaving her in good hands. They listened to her, they got to know her as an individual, and they connected with her in a real way. They even opened up their own families to her as they allowed their children to be a part of the class.

I don’t know how they have the capacity to love other people’s children the way that they do, but I am profoundly thankful. That’s why there were tears on the last day of school. Those tears were my acknowledgement of the wonderful gifts that God gave us this year in the form of two people who showed up every day to love on my little girl.

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