What a Difference Three Years Make…

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Friday was Mateo’s last day at Grace Lutheran Preschool!  To acknowledge this milestone, we took pictures in the backyard and I wrote this on Facebook:

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It’s been his second home since he was 3 months old. He’s learned, played, fought, laughed, cried and come home with shoes full of sand and countless skinned knees. In short, he’s grown in every way- including a love of Christ nurtured through songs and stories, crafts and games.

Today is Teo’s last day at Grace Lutheran Preschool. Our family has had one or both kids in the school for nearly 8 years! It has been a tremendous blessing in our lives and we’ll always cherish it.

Sienna and I were sitting on the floor in her room after Dennis and Teo had left for the day.  She read the post on my phone, then asked me “Why weren’t you that upset when I left preschool?”

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All week I’d been inundated with memories and emotions from exactly three years ago. We planned the same celebration, bringing ice cream in the afternoon for all the kids, and it was exactly the same time of year – just before the 4th of July weekend.  It brought me right back to those anxious feelings.

Early in the week, I realized that I was striving for control of my emotions… again.  So, I was actively practicing being present, defusing my thoughts, and letting my feelings be.  By the end of the week, I had let myself feel this milestone.  During a prayerful run the day before, I revisited memories of our family’s time at Grace Lutheran Preschool.  From Sienna’s first days in the infant room to all the annual celebrations that have marked the passage of time – Art Auctions, Mother’s Day Teas, and the fall Pie Auctions!

045.JPGWhile the circumstances were very much the same – having a child “graduate” from preschool – I was different and he way I experienced this milestone felt completely different.  And Sienna noticed.

I pulled myself together enough to briefly explain to her how deeply her transition out of preschool and into Kindergarten impacted me: “Sienna, it was so hard for me, I couldn’t let myself feel it.”  In an attempt to draw an age appropriate comparison, we discussed how Riley in Inside Out was trying to stay happy instead of letting herself feel sad about her move. “It’s important to let yourself feel your emotions.  I do that now, so that’s why you’re seeing the tears that you didn’t see when you left Grace.”

042.JPGThat moment set the stage for the day and I cherished our celebration at Teo’s school.  Instead of being disconnected and “in my head” as I was three years ago – I was entirely present and soaked up the fun and silliness of Teo and his buddies.  Bringing ice cream to a group of 3, 4, and 5 year olds is pure joy!  When it was time to hand out the treats, I spontaneously handed a box of Drumsticks to Sienna and a box of  Crunch Bars to Teo so they could help me distribute them to the kids.  They were super helpful and it was fun watching them in the role of “big kid” to the preschoolers.

I was so tickled when five of the younger girls surrounded Teo and he gave stickers to each of them (they were on his shirt from earlier in the day).  He looked like the “big man on campus” with the girls gathered around him!  A tender moment, indeed.

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When I think back on Sienna’s last day at Grace, all I can remember is the anxiety.  I was so wrapped up in struggling with my feelings, that I can’t remember any of the moments with her and the other kids.  In a very real way, I wasn’t there.

But, there’s nothing I can do about that now, other than use it as motivation to stay connected to the moment.  This holiday weekend has been super relaxed and fun – playing in the backyard, reading, going to church, playing at the pool.  Giving up the need to control my feelings allows me to drop all that mental noise and distraction, so that I can just be. Which then allows my attention to be directed to what’s actually happening around me. There’s nothing that feels better than being connected to the people I love.