Bittersweet. People use the word all the time, but when you find yourself in a situation that fits the word, it is often more bitter than it is sweet. It's often difficult to describe our emotions when we find ourselves in one of these "bittersweet" situations. More often than not it is because we are in uncharted territory. We are navigating waters we have yet to travel and it feels almost impossible to determine our exact feelings when we are having a difficult time getting our bearings. This is parenthood. The milestones we reach with our children are bittersweet. We want them to grow. We want them to change. We want them to succeed. Those are the sweet spots. It's the letting go we are forced to do in the process that is bitter. After all, wasn't it just yesterday that we held them for the first time and whispered in their tiny little ear how we had never loved anyone this much? Sure it was. To us it will always be yesterday.
My youngest is graduating from preschool, and while that sounds like the smallest of the milestones to some, it is one of the biggest to me. You see, preschool was a magical time for us. It was a time that he got to go out on his own without me for a little while, but was still right with me every step of the way. He left me to learn his letters, numbers and colors. He left me to play trucks with his friends. He left me to put puzzles together and have snack time with his pals. He left me to play dress up. He left me to make hand prints on paper and watch butterflies come to life. He left me skipping with a backpack that was way too big for him to find out which one of his new friends had brought in cupcakes for their birthday. He left me, but only for a short time. The moment I picked him up he told me all about every minute of his day. He told me all about story time. He told me all about that funny thing that Frankie's brother did. He told me everything. Every. Single. Thing. I don't know much, but I know enough to know it won't always be this way. Preschool is a short two or three years, but it means so much more than the time reflects. As we come to the end of this journey, I realize it is not just an ending for him -- it is one for me as well.
To the moms I met at preschool,
We might not have realized it at the time, but we met each other at the sweet spot. We came together at a time of innocence. Our children knew each other before they knew anything about the big wide world that is awaiting them. Our children did not care about where any of us came from. They only cared about snack time and play time. They cared about who had a great story to share. They cared about the kid who was crying because he missed his mom. They cared about the child who was absent and wanted to know why and when they would return.
They didn't care about what their friends were wearing to school. They cared about their friend who couldn't have nuts and made sure to remind their mommy to bring a snack she could safely have. They didn't care about what their parents drove to school. They cared about knowing who their mommy was and making sure they didn't leave if she was running late to soccer. They didn't care about what their last name stood for, because they were just so proud to be able to recognize it at circle time. They embraced one another's differences without having to point them out. They encouraged each other to be themselves. They were inclusive. They were the epitome of innocence. They never cared about status. They never cared about the exterior. All they ever cared about was each other.
The end of this time is bittersweet not only for us, but for them, even though they don't realize it now. They were able to enjoy a time of innocence with zero judgment. They were able to be who they are without anyone telling them they should change. They were confident. They were proud. They were kind. They were helpful. They were what we all wish on a daily basis we had the courage to be. They were true to themselves.
Ironically, we got to experience that too. We were a group of moms thrown into a school without knowing each other, but because we had children who were judgment-free, we too were able to remain that way. We were able to show up at pick-up every day and talk to one another without issue. After all, we have children who are not hurting each other emotionally or physically. We have children who set an example. We have children who have yet to be exposed to the hurt of the outside world. Here we thought we had popped the bubble by enrolling them in preschool, only to realize we have been happily living inside one all along. I want to tell you all that this is a time I will forever treasure. My son will grow and move on, and he may from time to time mention a pal from preschool. I want you to know that when he does I will look back on those memories with nothing but fondness. I will look back at a time when we all held the innocence of their age. I will look back at the special days, soccer games, music classes and field trips and I will smile. I will remember my son just like this because of all of you. We have no way of knowing what the future holds for our children, but what we do know is that the past will hold a treasure trove of beautiful childhood memories.
The ironic part of our preschool experience is the realization that we can learn so much from them. If we were somehow able to bottle up the innocence and have it carry on through high school and adulthood, it would be amazing. If we were able to show adults what it really means to act like a kind human being, our kids would be the example. Sure, high school gets all the glory, but preschool is the place where innocence still lives. Preschool is where judgment doesn't exist and love is a word thrown around with meaning. Our kids are graduating preschool, but I hope they carry the lessons they learned there with them forever.
All my best,