Today was Little Dog's last day at his preschool. He is now officially on summer vacation. This day has been long coming, and yet now that it has arrived, both Little Dog and I were oddly sad as we said our goodbyes. I was caught off guard by my emotions. I have not felt well served by this school in the past year. I should say that while it didn't work for us, there are others who really love that school. It may have been a matter of fit, or a matter of my expectations being set so high by the excellent program Big Dog had attended but that unfortunately didn't offer full day childcare which make it incompatible for us once we no longer had a nanny at home. All I know is that it didn't work for us, no matter how hard we tried. At times I had mentally beaten myself up over not moving him to another school as soon as the first rumblings of discontent emerged. I have been endlessly frustrated by his teacher with whom I cannot seem to see eye to eye. As the year went on and Little Dog howled in frustration each morning when I told him that yes indeed, it was a school day, I worried that I was not only making him unhappy but somehow scarring him for life. So we made the decision to take him out of preschool over the summer, move him from this obvious poor match and get him to summer camps with his brother to help him make the transition to Kindergarten this fall, and hopefully to help him regain at least some tiny love of school because currently he hates it.
I'd agreed to take the boys for ice cream after the last day, so I went to pick up Little Dog with a happy treat on the horizon. He'd had a great day (one of an increasing number of good days he's had as soon as we were able to help him count down the days at this school) and was in a fantastic mood. They'd spent the day at a park pretending to camp and he loved every moment of it. They'd also given him a diploma and a picture of his class to help him remember his time at this school.
After talking to one of his teachers and thanking her for her, I told him he should say goodbye to anyone he wanted to say goodbye to because it was time to go. And it hit him. My child who awoke this morning cheering that it was his last day at this school walked deliberately from classmate to classmate saying goodbye. When it came time for him to say goodbye to his teacher, he looked sad.
"I think I've said goodbye to all of my friends, but if anyone asks where Little Dog is, tell them I've gone home and that I say goodbye to them too." Then he took my hand, collected his things and walked quietly to the car. Even I felt a bit teary as I said my last goodbyes.
In place of my chatty little boy in the backseat, I was met with silence. I finally ventured, "It's ok to be a little bit sad when something ends. Even if you didn't like it all the time, there are always nice things too that will be missed."
"I feel a lot sad. I feel just a little bit happy. Just a bit happy that's smaller than a mouse."
"I understand," I said. "That's ok. It is hard to leave the things we know. Is there something in particular that is making you sad?"
"Ryan. I'm going to miss him," he said. Ryan has been at different times both Little Dog's best friend and worst enemy. They've had a long and mixed history, but lately it seems things have been going well. I've already talked to Ryan's mom about play dates over the summer, so I told Little Dog this news, but it didn't seem to matter much. He returned to silence.
A few minutes later he asks, "Mama, do you like secrets?"
"That depends. I don't mind secrets as long as they're not hurting anyone or keeping someone from talking about being hurt. Why, do you have a secret you want to tell me?" I asked.
"It's ok. It's not a hurting secret," he said. "I wish there was a reset button that could start things over but not exactly like they were before."
"What would you want to start over?" I asked.
"My old school. I'd like to start it over but without all of the bad parts."
That made me think a little.
"You know, in your mind you can push a kind of reset button and remember your school with none of the bad parts. You also get to start a whole new adventure at your new school, I think I'd think about all of the good parts you have yet to experience."
I'm not sure if that worked, but he's seemed a bit less down since. Granted, that could also be the ice cream kicking in.
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