An Apology Letter to Parents of My Preschool Classes
As I watch families bustling around, in a mixture of sullen faces that summer is over and joyful excitement about the new school year getting closer and closer – or already begun, in some areas – I hold a whole new respect for the parents that are sending their little ones off.
It’s not that I understand now how hard it can be to leave your small, dearly loved humans in the care of another, who may be a stranger to you and your littles at first. I admit, this is much clearer to me now, with my own little one approaching her second birthday this fall, and thoughts of sending her off to experience a world outside of me at her very own preschool next year, while still coming to terms with leaving her for an hour or two here and there, at a trusted friend or family member’s home – or maybe even with one of the teens who have expressed eager interest in babysitting.
Now I have a whole new sense of how stressful and uncertain this can be, when you’ve spent so much time and effort personally ensuring your little love’s happiness, comfort and safety up to this point. I know exactly how to read her signals and can generally figure out what it is she needs. I can understand the unclear words she uses when no one else can. I know how she likes her food served, and what dangers she’s likely to get into, and what she can handle. I’m sure next year I will find a deeper understanding of this anxiety over not being there, too, when preschool really hits the go button.
While it is a part of it, this past impatience over long goodbyes and hesitancies to trust my skills as a competent caregiver, this isn’t the main basis of what I want to apologize for. It is a part, but more-so, it’s this.
Before I became a mother, I felt confident that I held the ability to see things from the parents’ perspective. I felt I did a decent job adjusting my views of these child-raising beings to account for the challenges, emotions and stress that come with being responsible for the growth and well-being of their children. I was trained to look at all sides of a situation and accept that different people come from different places of knowing and feeling. I really thought I was being open-minded to the different challenges of others.
Now that I have had a taste of what parenting really entails, I know I was so wrong.
Dear parents, I am so sorry for the unknowing judgements I passed upon you. There were so many times where I thought to myself “Why can’t they just get it together? How hard is it, really, to (x, y or z)?”
Let me tell you, it can be very, very hard.
To a childless preschool teacher, who went home at the end of the day to quiet house, an open schedule and plenty of time to plan for the next day, it seemed as if sending a healthy snack shouldn’t be too much effort. It seemed like remembering to send a jacket or pack a “Friendship Fruit Salad” item to contribute should be easy enough. How could a bag for a child’s snack never be remembered and found to bring along with them to class? How was it possible to be 15 minutes late every day? Why couldn’t they make the time to find a yellow shirt on “corny” day, or send Valentine’s to distribute at our Valentine’s Day Party? Didn’t they understand how important it was to the confidence and growth of the children to have the “simple” things we requested of them, and to be there and on time for class?
I am eating my own words now, and I haven’t even had to attempt the routine of school yet. I only have one, very easy little girl to be responsible for. And yet, I am consistently late and overwhelmingly frazzled much of the time. If I can manage to get one good meal into my own body within the day, I consider this a huge win in the self-care department.
At first I thought “This will get easier as she grows.” Now I’m realizing that each age and stage comes with it’s own new challenges and frustrations. I’m beginning to realize that there may never be a stage of raising a child that could classify as “easy”.
Being a parent takes work. There is so much involved, and I don’t think anyone can really, fully understand it until you are in it, living the busy, messy, stressful, expensive, exhausting reality of raising a child. Dear parents, now I know that you were doing the best that you could to tackle everything involved in parenthood. I expected too much out of you, and gave you too little credit for what you were able to do. Just getting out of the door – period – can be a trying endeavor.
So teachers, please be gentle with the parents of your students as you enter into this new school year. Especially those parents who may be doing this for the first time, or with very young and very dependent little ones in tow. Even if you do have children at home, and you are able to “do it all”, remember this: we are all on very different journeys, with very different needs and challenges. You can never know what is really going on in the minds, hearts, homes, health and wallets of another family.
Instead of offering criticism (even if it’s only in your head), offer support. There are already so many things rolling around a parent’s plate. Try to keep your requests from parents for special days and activities small. Try to be understanding when that bag never comes, or the opening circle is interrupted again by a late knock on the door. Ask if there is something you can do to help. Make a positive connection with each parent, not based solely on their role as a parent, but their value as a human being, separate from their child.
Supporting the parent is the best way to support a child.