by Susan Torrey
July 27, 2011
There’s a date on my calendar that’s marked with a big red circle. It’s looming with both dread and excitement. It’s the last day of pre-school for my daughter. The end of the sweet little world she’s been a part of and the beginning of something bigger and new. She started the spring of 2008, barely two years old. She’s now five which means she’s spent more of her life there than not. Unlike a lot of parents we didn’t tour schools. We followed the lead of some close friends and found ourselves at a spot which was perfect for us, My Special School. It’s a small Montessori school, owned and run by the amazing Alice Tropper, who has made her life calling teaching preschool aged children.
She is kind and patient beyond what I think is humanly possible, but day in and day out, she manages the 6 children who follow her every word. They sit patiently and take turns. They respect each other and play nicely. It’s their home away from home which is filled with love, respect and kindness. It’s an idyllic bubble where everyone gets along where there are, no exceptions, and where inclusion is the rule. There are no unkind words spoken because with Miss Alice it’s all about the love. Because of what’s happening at school, Fia has been exposed to more than what we could have imagined. Every month Miss Alice arranges a variety of classes, Creative Movement, Yoga, Qi Gong, Aikido, Music, Drama, and weekly visits to “the grandparents” at Garden Court, a senior residence, for stories and lunch. “Mystery Fridays” consist of a special outing determined by what is happening in town or what the kids want to do. This week, bike riding. Next week? Who knows, but maybe the beach? The butterflies? A park? Every week is full of learning and adventure.
We’ve shared some of Fia’s most important milestones with Miss Alice, because she was the one who has guided us through. Potty training, reading, tying laces on her shoes, riding a two wheel bike and playing her first game of checkers. She’s celebrated her 3rd birthday, her 4th and her 5th at school and with Miss Alice. Almost seems like a lifetime, and in some ways it is. It’s been my daughter’s lifetime.
As she transitions from this sweet little world, where she’s one of 6, to where, she’ll be one of too many, I am sad and excited for her. I know it has to happen, but I want to keep her safe and in a world where there are no mean words exchanged and where love and respect is the norm. In 6 short weeks we walk her across the street to her new kindergarten class. We’ll drop her off and set her free to explore her new world. I know it’s a world that will look and feel a lot different. She’ll learn tough life lessons where not everyone wants to be friends. Where not everyone is as well behaved and where mean words might be exchanged. But it will also be a world where the work which Miss Alice prepared her for will shine. She’ll be kind and make friends. She’ll find her voice in the crowd and hopefully be the example.
Just as I was told, the years have gone too quickly. I remember dropping Fia off the first day at My Special School. I left, got in the car and had tears streaming down my face. And now, as that day on my calendar, which is circled in red approaches, I get tears just thinking of picking her up for the very last time.
*Susan Torrey’s column appears regularly in the Montecito Messenger.