Almost nine years ago, I dropped my precious firstborn off for his first day of preschool. He wore a brand new outfit that I had painstakingly picked the week before– one that would look great in pictures and still withstand a potential paint mishap. He had a personalized nap mat– his name embroidered in blue thread across the bottom of a green hand-stitched cow. His lunch was packed in tiny Tupperwares– all healthy fruits, vegetables and lean proteins cut into bite-sized pieces– and a tiny note that had a picture of me holding his hand was tucked next to his tiny cheese cubes.
He was ready. But I certainly wasn’t.
I had spent the night before tossing and turning– worrying that he might take too big of a bite of cheese and choke or that he might get bullied on the playground or that he would spend his first day huddled in a corner, afraid to even interact with the other kids. But I put on my brave face and I handed him off to his teacher. I bit my lip to hold back the tears and raced back to the parking lot where I sat in my car and sobbed.
My baby. What was going to happen to him?
Today, I dropped my equally precious albeit not nearly as prepared youngest off for his last week of preschool. He wears stained hand-me-downs that have his brother’s and cousin’s names on the tags. He carries that same nap mat– the one personalized with his brother’s name– the threads now torn and the cow stained. His lunch is full of granola bars and goldfish and whatever other tidbits I could find in the pantry. And today, once again, I will probably walk back into the parking lot and cry.
Not because I’m worried about my baby, but just the opposite.
Today, I will cry tears of gratitude. And of nostalgia. And of hope. Because for the last decade, I have dropped my kids off every Monday and Wednesday and walked confidently to my car knowing that my kids were safe and cared for and loved.
And that means so much.
There simply aren’t enough creative ideas on Pinterest or enough money in my bank account to give the teachers and school leaders the thanks that they deserve for being that safe place for my kids and so many others. For doing all of the little things that seem so insignificant but mean so much in my kid’s hearts. And to the Kingdom that Jesus is so patiently building in their souls.
And so I’m thanking you with my words– the only way I know how– for being the hands and feet of Christ when I needed you so very much.
So thank you.
Thank you for greeting my kids with a smile every single day– even when you were feeling stressed or sick or not quite up for another day with two-year-olds, you never let on. Instead, you invited my kids into your arms. When they were tentative, you showed them the new play dough tool you had brought. When they were nervous, you invited them to go on a special mission into the the supply room. And when they were weepy, you held them close.
Thank you for believing in me as a mom, even on my worst days. Thank you for telling me that all kids have those moments, that they will grow past it, that they will grow up. Thank you for not judging my parenting skills when my son attempted to ninja kick his friend “because that’s what Leo did on the Tutrles” or when my daughter hauled off and punched a kid on the playground “because he was soooooo annoying.” Thank you for kindly guiding them to the right way with gentleness and grace when they truly deserved a good kick in the pants.
And thank you for providing show-and-tell for my child when I forgot to bring something every. single. day. And for looking the other way when I slipped $20 into the pizza jar, knowing I had forgotten to provide pizza money for weeks on end. And for giving my kid your own personal teacher water bottle when his fell out of his bag in the car. And for letting him sleep on your lap when his nap mat was still in the dryer at home.
Thank you for taking such a personal interest in my kids, for knowing what they needed to feel safe and loved each and every day. For recommending the right books for me to read. (I still am baffled as to why you suggested I read “Wild Things” when my boys are obviously anything but wild, but alas, I loved the book.) For bringing extra stuffed animals for them to snuggle and extra toys from home that you thought they might like. For remembering to tell me the silly things they said and the goofy things they did during the day. I treasured those stories– even second hand.
Thank you for teaching my kids about friendship. You wouldn’t think that bonds forged on at the play kitchenette would last, but they did. My children still cling to the friends they made in preschool, and the adventures they had even years later. I chalk that up partly to the wonderful way you taught them to love each other. To be kind. To play bravely. And to love fully.
Thank you for remembering them, even after they are long gone from your classroom. For waving from doorways and gawking at how tall they have grown, for remembering their names, for pulling them into an embrace and showing them that you still care. For making them feel like one in a million even when they are only one of the thousands of hearts you have touched.
Thank you for caring enough to love.
For loving enough to stoop down and look my kids in the eyes.
And for giving enough to touch them so deeply.
I thank you for these tiny acts and a million more that changed my kids. And me.
You gave them courage to walk forward, to know who they are and who they can be even as they walk through much bigger hallways and on to much scarier places. You provided those tiny moments that shaped them, that grew them, that showed them who they are in God’s kingdom. And in their own hearts.
My kids each had a beautiful start. And that is partly because there is a grace that abounds in their earliest school memories– a grace that I rarely see captured yet seems to work its way into every crack of the framework at your school.
Christ’s love shines, even in the little things.
And it shines so brightly through you.