Today was not only AJR’s last day of school for the summer, it also marked the last day of school EVER at his current school. We said our goodbyes to the teachers and staff we have loved for so long and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t feel a little bit like a break-up. A nice break-up. One where you say you’ll be friends and keep in touch and honestly mean it. But a break-up nonetheless.
It’s just a school, so what’s the big deal, right? But AJR has been at this school since he was three months old. Back in the days when I used to work, I eventually had to go back to that job after a too-short maternity leave. It was heart-wrenching. We walked in with what I thought as all the things he could ever need, but of course I forgot the bottles. The most important thing. What an awful mother I thought his teachers were thinking. Joe had to run home (only a five minute drive away) and bring them back while I soaked up a few more moments with my baby. Then finally I had to leave. I was strong on the way out but cried in the car driving to work. I cried when I locked eyes with a fellow co-worker who was coming back from maternity leave at the same time. And I cried – both out of sadness and relief – when AJR’s teacher texted me a picture of his big blue eyes and half-smile. He was okay. Happy even. I, however, was not.
I remember speeding home in an effort to get to him. I made an illegal turn to shave a few precious minutes off my commute. As my luck would have it, a police officer happened to catch me making the illegal turn and pulled me over. I rolled down the window and immediately burst into hysterical, hiccuping sobs. I blubbered that it was my first day back at work and was rushing to get my son and here was my insurance card and driver’s license so he could he hurry up and write me the ticket? After an excruciatingly long run of my license plates, the kind officer let me off the hook and I burst into the school a few minutes later. He was the last baby there. If you’ve ever had your child in daycare, awful you feel when they are the last kid standing. But there he was being rocked and cuddled by a teacher’s who dubbed him “Old Blue Eyes” after Frank Sinatra. I exploded into more tears at the sight of him.
The drop-offs got a little easier. I got a little more familiar with the school. I cozied up to his teachers and the folks in the front office. AJR grew and thrived. His teachers and I took mutual delight in the milestones he hit. We mutually griped about his inability to nap easily or just nap at all. He took his first steps in that school. Steps that were recorded on video with enthusiasm and cheering by the women that watched and care for him when I couldn’t. He grew and moved up to the next class. AJR legit knew people. Walking through the halls teachers I didn’t know would say hello to him and he would strut, as much as a wobbly toddler can strut, knowing that he was sort of a big little man on campus.
I became pregnant. The teachers and staff at the school were some of the first to know as a growing belly is hard to hide. They delighted in the news and wondered if Baby #2 would have the energy of its brother. Nine months later those same teachers were some of the first people to meet Olivia as I wheeled in her to drop AJR off. School provided some much needed consistency for AJR as his world at home had changed dramatically. It also provided a much needed break for me as I was learning how to juggle a newborn and an active toddler while getting the hang of this daunting stay-at-home-mom thing.
The kids grew. AJR fell in love his teachers and looked forward to going to play with his favorite friends. Once Olivia started walking and graduated from the stroller, she started thinking she had a run on the place after being a part of so many drop-offs and pick-ups. There were times that I had to drag her out of AJR’s classroom. At two years old, her chance had finally come. I handed both of my babies over to this school. After spending the first two years of her life rarely separated from me, school was a tough transition for Olivia. But her teachers were always waiting with a hug as I blew kisses goodbye and walked out of the room. I was free! But in all sincerity, I was able to enjoy my newfound freedom because I knew they were in a place where they would be safe and loved.
I have a tendency to romanticize things when I’m feeling weepy and nostalgic but I can also be honest enough to know that it wasn’t always perfect. There were ups and downs along the way and there were a few closed door conversations with various directors and the occasional “Is this the right place for us?” discussion that comes after a particularly long day. But this is where AJR has spent nearly his entire life at. He grew up here. There are so many moments in his life that tie back to this school. My phone is littered with photos of him growing up within those walls. He’s had amazing teachers that have loved all the unique and wonderful things about him that I also love and adore.
I’ve grown up as a mother here too. I walked through the doors of this school for the first time when I was 20 weeks pregnant. Now I’m leaving with a 4 1/2 year old and 2 1/2 year old. I’ve cried to these people, I’ve worried with these people, and I’ve laughed with them over the craziness of motherhood. So much life has happened. I’m not the same mom I was when I started. I’ve changed. I’ve mellowed. Okay, I haven’t really mellowed but I have changed.
With the start of a new school in the fall I’m losing my OG status and the familiarity I have with the building, procedures, teachers, and most importantly the staff. We are stepping out of the intimate little bubble we’ve been protected in for so long. These people have known my family since we even became a family. At the new school I don’t know if the staff will find my children’s stampeding through the hallways as endearing as this current school does. Will they laugh when Olivia bursts into their office and tries to make everyone coffee on the Keurig?
Next year the kids will start a new school. It’s the right time to move on, I know that. After nearly five years at the same school, it’s time to change things up before AJR enters kindergarten. Yet knowing that doesn’t make this goodbye any less difficult. So if you need me, I’ll be curled up a glass case of emotion reliving the glory days.