Growing pains

I had one of those pangs today.  Several pangs, actually.

My day off was busy, primarily because it was Zoey’s very last field trip with her Pre-K class.  I brought her to school at 9 a.m. for circle time with her class before she climbed on board the little Cascade Christian bus and headed to Tacoma and the Children’s Museum.  She, in true recent fashion, clung to my arm while in her class and whisper-begged to ride in the car with me.  (Rules say the classroom kiddos can ride the bus but parents can not.  I think it’s because I don’t know the Pre-K secret handshake.)  But fresh off a let-her-get-swept-away-in-the-moment victory at swim lessons last night, I chose to just step back and watch as her best friend DJ chose her at circle time as his ‘bus buddy’ and pretty soon it was line-up time and walking up the stairs and climbing up the bus steps.

And…I don’t know.  It was sweet and exciting and yet still a little sad.

I started Zoey at this daycare when she was two and we had just moved home to Puyallup.  Her very first teacher clued me in to the fact that my child was ready to be potty-trained.  (Ms. Berna is a Cascade Christian legend for many reasons, mainly her notorious Potty Training Boot Camp.)  I remember feeling awed and excited to ditch the diapers, until she followed the revelation with a request to please send 12 extra sets of clothing to school the next day as well as several plastic grocery bags.  I loaded up a bulk of Zoey’s wardrobe the following day and marveled at the fact that my baby was growing up!  Potty training and heading for the three-year-old class!  And then came 2010, and holy sh*t, my life fell apart.  Every single teacher in that school showed us love and support and kindness.  Zoey’s father, being in the condition he chooses, is not able to pick Zoey up or transport her anywhere.  I never once felt that Zoey was not safe in her daycare.  Every teacher who came in to contact with Zoey assured me that there were strict guidelines in place and a plan for what to do should anyone unexpected show up and try to pick up my child.  One day, when I sent aunt Cindy to daycare at pick-up time, I notified the school in advance.  One teacher almost wouldn’t let Zoey go with her because I had given the name Cindy and my aunt’s driver’s license says her full name, Cynthia.

Later in 2010, my small three-and-a-half year old went through a painful period of separation anxiety, partly due to her age and a lot due to our crazy situation at home.  I distinctly remember August 2010, the month that Zoey had to be pried, sobbing, off my body every. single. morning.  This is when Ms. Yvonne came in to our lives, a guardian angel who starts her work day at 5:45 a.m.  She completely took Zoey under her wing, willing to be the point person each morning so that Zoey never had a different teacher greeting her and holding her as she cried while Mommy left for work.  To this day, Zoey is disgruntled if Ms. Yvonne isn’t there in the morning.  We’ve come a long way from the traumatic goodbyes of 2010, but there are still mornings that are tougher than others.  I can always count on Ms. Yvonne to designate Zoey her ‘special helper’ for the morning and ask her to help sort napkins in the lunch room as soon as Mommy leaves.  (The way to any Pre-K student’s heart is clearly by way of the term Special Helper.)

Zoey’s Pre-K experience has been the best year by far at this daycare.  This is the class where she honed her reading skills and lived for Circle Time and the sacred ritual of passing out jobs (favorites: Special Helper, Clean Up Bell, and Messenger) and fell completely, adoringly in love with her teacher, Ms. Cheryl.

I think it’s hard to NOT fall in love with Ms. Cheryl.

What’s not to love?  The woman is a walking bundle of love and joy in the presence of children.  And yet she takes no crap from them, either.  She is a wonder to behold and the kids in her class would happily follow her to the ends of the earth.  You really haven’t lived until you’ve watched a handful of five-year-olds line a chain link fence on the playground and wave through the gaps as their teacher leaves for the day.  As a parent, I always appreciated her timely calendars of activities and messages each day on the white board that gave a synopsis of how their day in Pre-K unfolded.  She never hesitated to pull me aside and share concerns about Zoey, namely when Zoey was feeling particularly shy and/or clingy.  More than once, I walked in to her classroom at the end of the day to find that the kids had left for the playground with Ms. Amy and Ms. Cheryl was sitting at a wee little table in a wee little chair, patiently sorting puzzle pieces in preparation for the next day.  Ms. Cheryl personified what Zoey and I have both craved so much this year: structure, routine, and love.

So, yeah.  Good times at this daycare.

Hence the teary eyes on my part as I watched my little girl happily board the school bus, clutching her best friend’s hand, having forgotten all trace of anxiety about not staying glued to Mommy’s arm.  As I slowly followed the troop through town, I had to half-laugh, half-cry as I could see Ms. Cheryl’s profile urging all the kids to throw their arms in the air, roller coaster style, while the bus slowed to a stop at the railroad tracks to double-check for trains.  14 eager sets of small arms were joyfully thrown in to the air.  You could practically feel the good, solid, Christian bible songs emanating from the bus.

*Sigh*

This has been a big summer.  It feels like Zoey and I are on the verge of something great, if bittersweet.  Leaving the safe little nest that has been Cascade Christian Daycare for the big, wide world of kindgergarten signifies that we are both moving on.  Leaving behind all that was painful but also leaving a lot of love…it feels big.

If I can shake Zoey from my arm come the first day of school, I’m sure she’ll grow to see that I’m right.

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2 thoughts on “Growing pains

  1. Amy, this is absolutely, utterly beautiful. You and Zoey have, indeed, come a long way…and we are proud of you. It does take “a village to raise a child” and you have made good choices along the way. Zoey is a very lucky girl to have a wonderful mom like you.

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