Ever since I was a young child, I have harbored a nearly insurmountable amount of worry in my whole being. New situations terrify me, especially when it means I’ll have to deal with a lot of people or if I am being held accountable in new ways. My anxiety especially bubbles up when these people and responsibilities are because of a very big deal — like going back to school.
There are so many things to consider; getting homework accomplished, getting up on time, making sure lunch is healthy. Not to mention meeting new people, attending new events, and of course, learning so many new things.
As we’re nearing the end of the year, I’m realizing that without you, dear teacher, I would have never made it through. You held my hand along the way and allowed me to learn the ropes at my own pace, and I feel confident that next year will be that much easier because of you. So I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
(No, I’m not talking about a college professor — I’m talking about my daughter’s kindergarten teacher.)
My daughter entering kindergarten meant a lot to our family, because she wasn’t supposed to go to school at all. Since before she and her sister were born, I was completely set on homeschooling my kids. We are a family who has always appreciated freedom and didn’t want school tying us down. I began freelancing full-time in 2010 and loved the flexibility it allowed us. My husband and I spent seven years living aboard a boat, and we dreamed of cruising the coast, homeschooling our children along the way, like many of our friends had done. Even when we moved off of the boat to be closer to family (thus ditching our cruising plans), we still had every intent to homeschool.
In fact, my daughters have never been away from me, at all. No daycare, no preschool, no babysitters for more than a few hours. My husband works many long hours and extra days, and my working from home meant that my girls and I were pretty much inseparable. Some people said we needed time without the kids and it wasn’t that I didn’t agree; it just never quite worked out as planned.
But at her birthday party, as my oldest daughter blew out all five candles on her birthday cake, she whispered to me, “I wished on my candles, mommy. I wished that I could go to real school.” It was the first time she had ever said such a thing, but deep down I knew that’s exactly what she needed. She needed friends. She needed real teachers. She needed time away from me.
In the coming weeks, we visited the local schools. We met you. We signed on the dotted line, and just like that, she was signed up for kindergarten.
I was terrified.
I was terrified of not being around my little girl every day. I was terrified that she would be unprepared for real school. I was terrified of someone else disciplining my child. I was terrified of things beyond my control, like bullies. I was terrified at the sheer size of her school and the amount of children she would come into contact with daily. I was terrified of losing control.
The summer before school started, I held onto the feeling that I had when I met you for the first time to get me through my fears. You made me feel calm. Relaxed. Ready. After all, I knew that this was what was best for my daughter — and wasn’t that all that mattered?
The weather on that first day of school was perfect — what memories are made of. Blue skies, birds singing. I stood out at the end of our driveway with my two daughters, but would only be coming back into the house with one. The moment I saw the big yellow bus felt more daunting than my own first day of kindergarten. And then in a whirlwind flash, she was gone. I held my tears until the bus rounded the corner, and then completely lost it.
How would I ever do this all year? How would I do this until my kids graduated high school?
Dear, sweet teacher — I could not have done this without you.
After the first day of school, you took time out of your busy schedule to call each and every one of us scared parents. Were the others as terrified as me? Were their children as quiet as my exhausted noodle of a girl after that first full day? She was too tired to tell me much of anything, and so when my phone rang and it was you, telling me how darling my daughter was, I breathed a sweet sigh of relief that I could trust you and rely on you to inform me of anything wrong.
My daughter’s school utilizes the texting app Remind. This app allows teachers and administration to send texts to one or many parents and receive messages from frantic moms like me.
I tried very hard to not overdo it, because I knew it’d be so easy. Is my daughter making friends? I wanted to write. Is she learning math on the same level as everyone else? But I held my breath and hid my worries. Is she happy? Is she sad? Is she too tired for school today? Is she being bullied?
But instead of sending all those messages, I quietly waited, until the time felt right. My daughter said that a boy has been picking on her a lot and I need your perspective. She was so upset on Friday. In an instant, you wrote back and assured me you’d look into it. And you did. And while it didn’t solve the issue immediately, you called to get our side of the story. You treated the situation seriously, and I just want to thank you for that. Thank you for treating my daughter as a real person. Thank you for understanding that her sadness and fears were real issues, even when the “bully” in question was an unlikely culprit.
When I felt like I was doing a poor job of parenting and forgot the snack calendar, forgot to send my daughter with her homework, or when she missed school for the umpteenth time for being sick, you made me feel like I was doing the best job I could as a parent. There was never any judgment — only kindness, understanding, and forgiveness.
When my daughter got hurt on her field trip, you told me before she was able to show me the scratches on her leg from falling. You always make sure that the children in your class are a top priority to you.
And when I walked into your class with my youngest daughter (whom you knew was giving preschool a try), you asked how it went. “Was she ready?” And I cried. I cried because no, she was not. And I tried to push it, and it didn’t work. I cried because again, you were immediately there to tell me that everything was okay. Later, I sent a text, apologizing for crying, and you wrote, “Don’t ever apologize for loving and worrying about your child. YOU are an amazing mom and as hard as it will be I promise it will all work out. It will take time and patience but it will happen.” And that, dear teacher, is so true.
This year took time and patience. It was hard, but it all worked out. Today as my daughter received her diploma, I noticed that she didn’t want to let go as you hugged her tight, but I saw the smile on her face as she did. A smile that showed sadness to say goodbye, but also a fierceness that said, I’m ready for my future, thanks to you.