I know he probably doesn’t look like a baby, with his shaggy hair and the new hole in his grin where a tooth used to be. But when I look at his face I don’t see the six year old boy that you do. I see the tiny wrinkly face of the newborn that nuzzled my shoulder in the wee hours of the night. I see the face covered in pureed carrots, the wobbly first steps he took in Palm Beach, the tear-streaked face that watched me walk out the door on his first day of preschool, the pain of skinned knees and blisters, the determination in his face before he threw his first spiral.
That’s the curse of being a mother. When you look at your children, you see them not only as they are, but also as they were. And every day that the gap grows bigger, with every milestone that you pass, your heart gets a little heavier.
Yesterday my nine years of preschool finally came to an end. And as those children walked onto the stage last night, I saw all of them – some of whom I have known since birth – not as who they are, but who they were.
I saw both the babies that crawled on the floor on their first day of preschool and the 5 year olds that ran around in circles until they collapsed, dizzy, in a heap on the playground.
I remembered both the teetering steps they took onto stage for their first holiday play as well as the confident strides to the microphone for their solos years later.
I saw them falling in love. Not the kind of love that is messy or complicated or painful, but the kind of love that only children can have. They fell in love with their friends and their teachers, with finger painting and Play-doh, with the sound of words and the pictures in a book, with singing songs and asking questions, with holding hands and laughing until their stomachs hurt.
I looked around the room at all the parents and saw them, too, not only as they are, but also as they were.
I remembered the early days, arriving bleary-eyed and perpetually late, peeking through the windows to make sure our babies were okay without us. I saw us lingering in the hallway after drop-off, navigating each other through the tricky waters of sleep training, potty training, and potty language.
I saw us beaming with pride as we watched school plays and gingerly cradled handmade ornaments, cards, pins, and hats as though they were priceless treasures.
I saw us hugging as we helped each other through sickness and death. Through new jobs, new pregnancies, and new houses.
I saw us becoming friends. And I realized that these last nine years were just as much for us as they were for our children. Because preschool – for parents and children – isn’t about learning to read or to write. It’s about learning to love everything. To love each other.
So to all of the magnificent teachers we have had for the last nine years, I say thank you. We probably don’t tell you this enough, but we know that you have kissed as many boo-boos, changed as many diapers, cleaned as many spills, refereed as many arguments, and given as many hugs as we have. You have seen our children at their best and at their worst and you love them anyway.
And we are grateful.