A parent’s tribute to her son’s early childhood teacher
Do I have his bag packed, are there nappies in the bag? What about a box of raisins for the journey? How will I carry the coffee back to the table whilst pushing the buggy and holding his toast at the same time? Oh, but how I need that coffee. Wait hang on a second- how much sugar is in that jam he is eating? Which is usually followed by…. ‘I must pick up toothpaste’ (fluoride free obviously).
This is just a tiny insight into the thinking of a new mother learning on her feet. My every day involved task after task, that I would tick off on my mental checklist. It’s hard for me to admit, but I felt that only once this mental checklist was completed, could I consider myself to have been a successful mother that day.
In hindsight, it was these very same tasks that took me away from all the precious moments unfolding before my eyes. While I was juggling this artificial stress, I was missing out on “Mammy look I made a rainbow shape out of my toast” …. or, “look- I put the straw in all by myself”. I never heard my son’s words fully, nor did I truly feel my toddler’s accomplishments. I just saw task after task.
So, as you can imagine, when I watched my loving little boy walk down the road for his first day of preschool I found myself greeted with a surge of conflicting emotions. I was honoured to say that this beautiful little boy, smiling so openly, was mine. Yet, I felt an alarming sadness that I had never stood still long enough to watch this wonderful little character grow.
Now here I was handing him across to a group of childcare practitioners that I did not know. Hoping that they would know how he can be a ‘particular’ little fellow who likes certain things done in a specific way. Hoping that they too would know how to master the infamous ‘task list’. Hoping that they would willingly play Robin when he wants to be Batman. Or that they would know Buzz Lightyear & Woody are best friends who simply can’t be separated. More importantly, I hoped that they would recognise if he was feeling sad and know how to comfort him in the way that only I know how.
I would soon learn that there was no need for any of the above anxieties. To say he has blossomed within their care is an understatement. My son adores these women like family. He gushes about the fun things they do together. From painting to making robots, he loves nothing more than exchanging stories about his day. I hear all about his ‘teachers’, about their families and their holidays. They too know all about his family and the things he loves and enjoys.
For instance, one Sunday collecting rocks on the beach, my son asks can he bring the gold stones back to show Ann the treasure he found on ‘family Day’. “Ann will love my pirate treasure. She knows I’m a pirate”. It is these passing comments that feed my deep sense of the connection and trust he shares with these women.
There are no inhibitions, no boundaries; he can just be who he wants to be on any given day. Monday a pirate, Tuesday a robot and Wednesday, well grumpy, if he wishes to do so. I guess what it comes down to is the fact that these women are his first meaningful connection outside of his family. When we think of it like this you can’t help but consider how deeply profound and significant this relationship is.
As my son comes to the end of his first year of preschool it is now so clear to me what a unique and wonderful role a childcare practitioner plays in our children’s lives. Not only do they care and nurture our little ones daily but they also introduce them to many firsts in life. Their first group activity, their first songs, their first plays, their first friendships, and of course the trickiest of all how to resolve their very first conflicts.
On a final note, I am a parent who is so in awe of their work. I also believe that life could be really wonderful if we took a leaf out of their book. If we stopped being so hard on ourselves and halved this never-ending task list that we create to maintain our quest for ‘the perfect life’.
Now I try to focus on having a little bit more fun with my son every day. The world will not end if he gets crumbs on the good shirt! After all it is our insightful friend Dr.Seuss who reminds us “sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory”.