I think there are at least a few people in this world who adapt to change better than I do. Wait, scratch that. I’m sorry to say that I have no idea what the world’s population is off the top of my head, but let’s just say that if it’s 609 zillion people – there are probably 603 zillion of them who accept change better than I do. Now, that’s not to say that I’m inflexible, but I do like to stay the course, if possible. For instance, whenever we go to Muchas Gracias for dinner, I always get a cheese enchilada and chicken taco. Why? Because it’s a sure (read: safe) bet.
Believe it or not, the same goes when it comes to matters involving parenting. Stability: good. Change: often not quite as good. When Ian came along, we lived in the Washington, D.C. area where you are more likely to see a politician acting like a mature adult than you are to get a spot for your baby at a daycare. It’s commonly known there that if you have any hope of getting your child into a “decent” daycare – meaning they at least feed them at some point during the day – you had better start going on tours and getting on wait lists before you get pregnant. Wait until conceive and you’ve already missed the boat. That’s all to say that it can be a beyond-stressful process to locate a place where you a) feel comfortable leaving your child and b) can actually get a spot to park them.
After we moved to Portland I found that the most coveted places here also come with wait lists, though I believe there are plenty of places that are equally as good that are much easier to get into – they just don’t have the brand awareness, if you will. Sadly, I did not come across one of these places on the first try. On the contrary, though I thought I had done my due diligence, I knew I had made a mistake the first day I dropped off my sweet little toddler (about 14 months at the time) and the teacher barely acknowledged him. I had a pit at the bottom of my stomach when I got in the car that day and drove away from the center. I started looking for a new place for him that morning – making calls and scheduling interviews/tours.
Peace of mind came in the form of a woman named Linda who ran a small daycare out of her home and had been the neighborhood daycare person in an area of SW Portland for several years. The parents all raved about her and I could tell she was a force to be reckoned with when it came to juggling babies and toddlers. Plus, she took care of the kids one Friday night a month so the parents could go out, which is what really sold us, if you must know. Linda was the best and I was so relieved to have finally found a place to leave Ian every day where I knew he was in excellent hands. Until one day, Linda announced she was moving to California. I wasn’t sure that was legal but apparently it was.
Jeff kept telling me that he thought the timing worked out very well because Ian was about 2.5 years old by then and Jeff had been suggesting to me that maybe it was time for Ian to move out of a home care to a more structured, social environment. But, given the stress I had been through on the road to Linda, I was ready to hold on to her until the bitter end despite what Ian may or may not have been ready for. Dammit. (Blame it on the anti-change monster.) A couple of the other parents were sending their kids to this place at a church a few streets over from Linda’s house that took kids starting at infants through pre-k and was accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (the gold seal of approval of sorts for center-based care). That’s how, three years ago in September, Ian came to start in the toddler class at St. Andrews.
Everyone at St. Andrews has been wonderful, as have been the other parents and kids. I don’t know that there was ever a day where he didn’t want to go to school. They did such a great job of giving him a combination of social skills and gradually increasing the amount of structural learning. I remember writing a post on my old blog about the night we were out a restaurant and Ian wrote his name for us for the first time. I wish I could say he learned it from us, but he didn’t. There are so many more examples of things like that where he’s amazed us with things he’s learned there. Though, if I had to pick someone I’m the most grateful for during his few years there, it is Teacher Violetta, his pre-k teacher of this past year. She told us the first week of class that she took her job of preparing these kids to be successful in kindergarten very seriously and she meant it. His skills flourished this past year and we have every confidence that he’s going to do really well in kindergarten, and it’s all thanks to Violetta and his assistant teachers like Teacher Audra and Teacher Jessica who treat him with love yet have high expectations. Teacher Violetta left the school year a bit early and quietly – sharing with the kids that she was going on an extended vacation and telling us that she was fine and would be back. We later learned that she has breast cancer and as of a couple of weeks ago, it was still uncertain whether she would return in the fall for the next pre-k class. My heart goes out to this woman who gave my son such a wonderful gift.
Roughly three weeks from now, Ian will say goodbye to St. Andrews as we all enter a whole new stage together: kindergarten and elementary school. Now that it’s getting so close, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get another little pit in the bottom of my stomach every time I think about this big change coming our way and him leaving the safety of this wonderful environment that we’ve come to know so well. Of course, his journey into elementary school will be equally as wonderful but it’s definitely a little strange – and unknown. Will he know where to go when he gets off the bus? What if he gets lost? Who will be watching over him? What about lunch? How does that work? Do we have to bring a drink for him if we make his lunch? How will he keep his milk cold until lunch? Will he like Raleigh Park? Will he make new friends easily? Will he make it from his classroom to the after school care okay? I’m sure we’ll be getting at least some of these details from school prior to the first day – but I hope it comes soon!
Meanwhile, changes are also in the air for Elena. This week will be her last full week at St. Lukes, where she has been in the infant care room until now. The week of the 22nd, just as Ian prepares to leave St. Andrews, Elena will be moving into the toddler room at St. Andrews – right where Ian started. (I’m moving her over a bit before September to give her some time to get acclimated to her new environment before more kids start back after Labor Day weekend.)
St. Andrews and St. Lukes are different sites of the same local organization and though St. Andrews has an infant room, I chose to put Elena at St. Lukes because I was more comfortable with the infant accommodations there. She has also had wonderful care from center director and lead infant teacher, Adina as well as Teacher Lhee and the assistant teachers. The best sign I could have gotten was the day I picked Elena up and she tripped and fell running over to me. Extremely upset, she got up, took one look at me and went running the other way to find comfort in Lhee’s arms, who scooped her up immediately to comfort her as if she was her own. She’s doing so well that would be easy to keep her there, but just because change is hard doesn’t mean it’s not right. Right? Right!
In addition to the teachers, we really like the facilities at St. Andrews: things like the indoor gym where the kids can run around inside when it’s raining outside (you know, like 90 percent of the year), plus a huge playground and garden. It’s also a slightly more convenient location for us. Understandably, I have significantly fewer questions regarding her move to St. Andrews than I do about Ian’s move to elementary school. Mostly, I just hope that she’ll bond quickly with Teacher Jeremy; that she’ll transition okay from napping in a pack n’ play in a separate room to a mat on the floor in the same room as everyone else, and that she won’t come home cranky from not getting a good nap during this transition. Because at this age, it’s kind of all about the sleeping…and eating.
Not surprisingly, these changes that once seemed so far away have arrived so quickly. I used to think it was kind of silly when I’d hear about parents crying when dropping off their kid for their first day of kindergarten. What’s the big deal? Okay, so maybe it is a little bit of a big deal because it represents the start of this whole new significant phase of their lives. They aren’t your baby anymore; they are becoming their own little person. And it happened in a flash. I looked at Ian today and noticed how he’s getting so tall and looking older every day. I know he’s ready and excited about these big changes coming his way here shortly. I just hope I am, too!