My Sweet Maya,
Tomorrow night, you become a pre-K graduate. My Maya Papaya — equal parts smart, sassy, shy, strong and self-assured — this milestone feels both heavy with bittersweet emotion, and beautiful and airy all the same. I am so very proud of the incredible little girl you are becoming, and I can only imagine the places you’ll go.
Veteran parents say to cherish each moment, that time flies, that the hours of parenthood are long but the years are short — and now that I’m in the thick of it, I absolutely believe these cliches to be true.
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears
I remember walking through the door of Adventures Learning Centers for the first time back in September 2010 like it was yesterday. I didn’t know you yet; you were a mystery — a six-months-along alien baby nestled snugly in my belly who just kicked and rolled all day.
* * *
I dreamed what you’d be like, but didn’t know that you’d have my dimples, or that you’d be bald for the first year of your life. I didn’t know you’d love building elaborate towers out of MagnaTiles and Legos as much as you love playing dress-up or house. I didn’t know hummus and olives would be two of your favorite foods, or that you’d be the most amazing big sister to your brother. I didn’t know that you could empathize with enormous loss and show compassion at such a young age … that your little heart could be so big or that you could comprehend such grown-up sentiments. You amaze me, day in and day out, with how in tune to others’ feelings you are.
But back then … you were a gift that I waited with sweet anticipation to open. I had no idea who you would be — and even now, I’m learning.
* * *
I remember it smelled delicious and inviting inside the brightly-painted main office — like an apple cinnamon candle or apple pie a la mode — and instantly felt my nerves settle. Daddy and I took a tour with Ms. Kristin, who back then was the director and today, is the regional director. She led us from the Infant Room down the hall all the way to the Yellow Room, the class for the 5-year-olds on the brink of kindergarten, answering the many questions we anxious parents-to-be had along the way. As I poked my head into each of the rooms, I took it all in — the toys and set-up of each room; the sounds of kids playing, laughing, shrieking; the music some kids were dancing to; the smells of a healthy lunch being prepared. I took in the wall art and the calendars and letters … the tiny cubbies filled with extra clothes and nap bags I’d later learn house some serious VIPs (i.e., loveys).
It felt weird and a little disconcerting that even though we hadn’t met you yet, I was looking for a place to safeguard you when I went back to work … but this place felt special. Something about it just felt like home.
And home it has been, for the past five years.
I’ve often said, if you can’t be with me, there’s nowhere I’d rather you be. Since you were three months old, you’ve been here. You’ve moved from Infant to Wobbler, to Orange, Green, Red, Blue, Purple, and now Yellow Room. You’ve been held and cuddled and loved and challenged by countless amazing teachers who have cared for you as if you were their own. You’ve morphed from a shy baby who wouldn’t let go of her little giraffe Wubbanub to a strong (and strong-willed!), independent, fearless little girl with a wild imagination who speaks her mind. Within these walls, you’ve learned to let go — to be without the security of Mommy and Daddy, even when it’s been hard for you at times (post-vacations, transitioning to different rooms, etc). You’ve learned to love and trust other people — teachers and friends alike. It’s here you’ve learned how to be a good friend to others and a helper to your teachers.
And it was here you began to sit up, crawl, drink from a sippy cup, walk, sign, talk, sing songs … it’s where you developed into to a bright, introspective, sensitive, thoughtful little girl who delights us every day. That little girl is now reading, writing, doing some arithmetic — she’s academically ready for what is next. But she’s also developing her emotional intelligence, and that is just as valuable to me: she’s expressing care and concern for others in a way a parent can only dream, and has a strong sense of right and wrong.
Like many working moms, I often struggle with guilt that I am not with you 24/7 … that I miss so much. But then I get to pick you up — and it’s by far the best part of my day. [Most days] you race to greet me and tell me all about your day–pulling me by the hand to show me art you’ve made or a new bulletin board display, or telling me about a book you read or the “special snack” your class made. I love how eager you are to share so much with me — especially because I know that may not always be the case 😉 It’s like this secret world you let me into — and I am grateful for every bit of it. (Psssst… I hope you remember that in kindergarten and beyond, too!)
And now tomorrow, you will graduate from Adventures. We’ll attend your ceremony and I’m sure to be a blubbering hot mess. (OK — I’ll try to hold it together, but I’m not making any promises!). And then in September, kindergarten — and a new chapter of your life — awaits.
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
My Maya Papaya, we are so very proud of you. And we are beyond grateful for your home away from home — which has helped shape you into the amazing little girl you are. ❤
It takes a village.