For Teachers of the Very Young

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My scarecrow.

About a week ago, a note was sent home in my two-year-old’s preschool folder: Next Friday will be Scarecrow Day! Please send your child to school dressed like a scarecrow!

A scarecrow? What am I supposed to do, stuff her full of hay and hang her from a wooden pole? Put some birdseed behind her ear and see if I can entice a crow or two to come and have a seat? My husband said I was overthinking it. Put her in a plaid shirt and a pair of jeans, he said. Paint her nose brown. Boom, she’s a scarecrow.

But overthinking things is kind of my MO, so yesterday, Scarecrow Day Eve, I brought all three kids to Walmart and K-Mart (The Big K? I don’t know what they’re calling it these days) in search of a scarecrow costume, or at the very least, a hat with even a remotely scarecrow-like feel to it. In the end the only scarecrow-y hat was attached to a “Baby Bavarian” costume, complete with a sticker reading “Sippy Stein”, so I bought the whole thing. Boom, next year’s Halloween costume theme.

When we got home, I started piecing together the elements of our scarecrow costume: red plaid shirt, blue jeans, a denim overall top in size 12 months that I unbuttoned on the sides to make it large enough for a two-year-old torso, and the Baby Bavarian hat. But it needed something. I texted my crafty mother-in-law, who had the yellow felt I asked for, and in a pinch I fashioned a pair of “straw bracelets” that could sit at the cuffs of the shirt. Our little scarecrow ensemble was complete; all that was left to do was to convince Ceci to wear it. Easy.

This morning, we got her all dressed up and ready to go. Of course, I found in her drawer a super cute hat that we already owned, and of course I had already ripped open the packaging of the Baby Bavarian costume. So there’s that. But she did look freaking adorable. If I were a crow I would eat her right up. We got in the car. We drove to school. I led her to her classroom, where her tiny scarecrow classmates all looked equally edible. Her plaid-attired teachers welcomed her with an appropriate “Aww!” And that’s when it hit me.

For me, Scarecrow Day was a total pain in the buns*. It would be one thing, I reasoned, if I were doing all this for a four- or five-year-old who would retain an actual memory of Scarecrow Day. In all likelihood, though, the only evidence Ceci will have of this landmark day is an Instagram photo and this blog post. Why were her teachers making me go to all of this trouble? It just felt like kind of a lot for the sake of cuteness.

What I realized this morning, the thing that brings me to tears of gratitude and appreciation, is this: the women who care for my child for three hours a day, five days a week, do what they do knowing that their time with her will soon fade into nothing more than an indistinct impression written in the folds of her ever-changing brain. Some days I pick Ceci up from school and she can’t tell me what she did with them even an hour before. What did you do at school today? Umm, I’m don’t know. 

And yet, they plan special events, pumpkin carving, bobbing for apples, a Thanksgiving feast. They hold her when she cries. Last year, her caregiver gathered her wild hair into a ponytail every single day, a mother’s job, but one that I neglected to do in my rush to ready myself for work each morning.

Is there anyone more giving of love than a preschool teacher? To change the diapers of other people’s children, help them learn to use the potty and wash their hands, to referee their disagreements, gather them onto the carpet for circle time. To teach them letters and numbers, shapes and colors, but more importantly, sharing, waiting, kindness.

Thank you, teachers of the very young. You live in the moment with our kids. The work you do to make those moments fun, joyful – maybe even memorable – it does not go unnoticed. Shame on me for making Scarecrow Day about the lengths I went to, the degree to which it put me out. What does any of that matter when a few miles down the road there is a classroom full of happy scarecrows and two smiling teachers?

*You can guess what word I wanted to use, but since the audience is preschool teachers, I went to the thesaurus. Pain in the keister? Pain in the fanny? I had a hard time choosing, but “buns” made me laugh. Clearly my kids have ruined my once intellectual sense of humor.

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