A mom’s “thank-you note” to the preschool teachers and building staff when her youngest “graduated” from preschool.
I asked myself, “How do you thank the people who changed your family’s life in a good way more than they will ever know? Flowers? Chocolate?” Nothing that came to mind was even remotely good enough. So I wrote this, and sent it to the head of our preschool and all of my kids’ preschool teachers.
Written on Tuesday, May 31, 2011, at 6:15 a.m. when I couldn’t sleep because I woke up crying and continued crying on the first day of my youngest son’s last week of preschool…
I Will Always Remember…
I remember when I started down the Family Center path, tentative and nervous about being a mom in the first place, walking into a building I’d never noticed before, having no clue what a “Parent Education class” was and finding it tough to admit I didn’t know all of the “mommy skills” that I was sure I was supposed to have received the moment I gave birth!
I remember thinking, “Seriously, what on earth can a one-and-a-half year old learn in a classroom?”
I remember the welcoming smiles of teachers and staff – the easiness of registration as a new family to the Family Center – the overwhelming sense that this was a place we ALL could learn new things, my one-and-a-half year old daughter entering the 2’s class, a class for kids who are one year old but turn two sometime during the year, with Miss Nadi, my 10-month-old son crying as I left him with the loving and caring hands of the teachers in Sibling Care, and my own parent educator, Miss Jill.
I remember learning about how children develop, grow, test boundaries, potty train, learn in different ways, practice things, get scared, push buttons (literally and figuratively!), follow their peers, act differently around other adults, learn how to manage themselves, recite the alphabet, define colors and shapes, play in the sand, make friends, follow their role models, crave guidance, and, above all, need love and attention.
I remember having questions, so many questions, all eight years we were there. “Joys and Concerns” was my favorite part of each week. Hearing the same questions I had from other first-time moms comforted me. And the parents who were with their second, third and fourth kids in my class (God love them) patiently listened, gave sound and sometimes silly advice, helped me see that I wasn’t alone. Along with the parents, the teachers assured me I wasn’t “doing it all wrong” (like I felt) and that we were going through normal developmental stages. They chose topics wisely to help everyone build their “toolbox” of parenting skills for these young years, as well as a solid foundation for the years to come!
I remember play-dough volcanoes with soda and vinegar, graham cracker “gingerbread” houses, feathers, drawings, paintings, songs, pictures, field trips, hand-prints, household decorations, and everything else Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) gave my kids and family each time we left the classrooms.
I remember, and I have pictures, of my two oldest children graduating from many classes with many fabulous teachers, other students and other parents. Each child gained something different and unique from their experience in that building. Each year, I learned something new about all of my children, even if the topic had been covered in a previous class.
I remember the sadness I felt each time one of them finished their stint at ECFE, knowing that those teachers had impacted their lives profoundly – yet my children would only vaguely remember it.
I remember knowing there was this “other part” of the building in which families I didn’t interact with much participated. It was separate from ECFE and more than a little mysterious to me. I knew it was called Partners Preschool and that special education was mixed in there somewhere, but that was all I knew. I heard and saw things like “IEPs,” wagons, special rooms, many more teachers, sometimes stressed-out-looking parents and an occasional out-bursting child coming from the hallway in that “other part” of the school. I always knew special things were happening down that hallway, but I left my curiosity at bay.
I remember my little one-and-a-half year old son not knowing his own name, not seeming to notice anyone else in the room with him, always playing by himself, often inconsolably crying, not answering simple “yes or no” questions, not demanding things, not telling me his wants or needs, not making eye contact and not making any sense whenever words did come out of his mouth.
I remember walking down that left hallway the very first time out of necessity, dropping off my little boy for the special help he needed, having no idea what that was, or why, or how they could help him and our family.
I remember being bombarded with information, mostly in acronyms, and as quickly as possible trying to understand what he needed and how these saintly teachers would be helping him.
I remember the patience the teachers had for him and for me from day one.
I remember the plans they developed and interesting ideas implemented to help him come out of his shell.
I remember the ECFE administrators and teachers agreeing to allow him to be in non-inclusive classrooms to see how he’d fair. It went well!
I remember tears shed with people in that building.
I remember loud bursts of laughter with the same people.
I remember watching my little boy begin participating, making friends, having less tantrums, using the words his teachers gave him, learning EVERYONE’s names, saying “Hi” to Miss Wendy every day, imitating Miss Jessica’s loud and deep voice, being SO excited to show Mr. Tim his accomplishment of the day, greeting every teacher in sight – his teacher or not – and as loudly as possible, Miss Lori reminiscing with me about how far he’s come, hearing Miss Kris’ words from his little voice at home helping me understand his desires and thinking.
I remember all of my kids’ teachers, my own teachers, the teachers in Partners Preschool and Special Ed., as well as all of the supporting staff around the building.
I remember my little boy’s graduation from ECFE being difficult for him last week, and I expect it will be a similar scenario when he graduates from Partners Preschool this week. But because of the experiences we’ve had in this building, I know it will all work out fine – no matter if we stay and he cries the whole time or if we leave early. Heck, you’ve all taught me how much he can surprise me, too! So I’ll cross my fingers for that!
I remember it all, Family Center friends.
And I will cherish every day in my heart forever.
Thank you for everything each person in your building has given to me and each of my three children. I don’t like saying “Goodbye,” so I’ll say “See you sometime soon” because you all know I will stop by to see you for many years to come. You are too much a part of my world, as my friends and my support system – so no Goodbyes.
Please keep doing what you’re doing. You’re making miracles happen – every day!
Sue Ellen Toppings
About Sue Ellen Toppings
Sue Ellen Toppings is a wife, mom, employee and volunteer with Minnesota Women of Today.
She is from Minnesota and has three amazing children and a fabulous husband. Sue Ellen was a stay-at-home mom for nine-and-a-half years, but now has an extremely part-time, yet super fun, job. She loves swimming, running, spending time with her family and friends going to movies, and reading.
Sue Ellen’s biggest hobby is volunteering with the Women of Today organization. This year, she is serving the organization as the public relations state program manager. She learns something new every day in that role. She highly encourages everyone to find an organization to which you can offer your skills and talents, find new friends, learn new things, and be able to just be yourself! It is how she has managed to keep the person of “Sue Ellen” vibrant and loving life when she could have quickly gotten lost as mommy, wife, employee, homemaker and mom of a special needs child.
Sue Ellen’s youngest, almost six years old, was diagnosed with autism three years ago, and it has been quite a learning curve! The world changes whether you created the changes or they were presented to you. Embracing change is what she has found to be the most enjoyable – not always easiest, but definitely the most enjoyable!
And Sue Ellen wouldn’t have it any other way!