I remember the last traditional birthday party we had for Elsie, two years ago. It was when she turned three. The party was located outside, in front of our house. Elsie spent most of the party trying to get back into the house, away from the noise of many people talking at once, away from the sporadic and disjointed visual stimulation of kids running this way and that way. I remember talking to her inside the quiet of our house, telling her that she had to go out one more time to blow out the candles on her cake, but after that, she wouldn’t have to go outside again. I remember how relieved she was when everyone was gone and it was just us the four of us again. Don’t get me wrong – her last two birthday parties have been well attended. Me, my partner, her sister, and all of her stuffed animals adorned with party hats, and Elsie, of course, who has gotten to enjoy a celebration of her birthday rather than trying to get away from it.
I put in two applications for kindergarten at WSP last year: one for Elsie and one for younger sister (by less than a year) Quinn. I signed them both up for summer camp at WSP, too. I wasn’t surprised when Ms Lucy sat me down after Elsie’s third day at camp and told me that it wasn’t working; Elsie was not coping well with being in a classroom with 12 other kids. I was sad, disappointed, uncertain about what was going to happen next, but I wasn’t surprised.
What we ended up doing next was having Quinn start kindergarten at WSP while Elsie started home school with me. Again, I was not surprised when Quinn settled right into Ms Erin’s Lilac Kindergarten class, entering the room with nary a look back at me, while I begged for a hug goodbye, please? Pretty please? And I was also not surprised when Elsie settled into our home school routine with smiles and quiet concentration.
But what has surprised me (not shocked, mind you, just surprised a bit) is how WSP and Ms Erin have welcomed Elsie into the WSP community, and not just the community of being part of a WSP student’s family, but the WSP community of children. Ms Erin was the one who asked Elsie if she wanted to participate in the Michaelmas lantern walk. She also gave us some of the colored tissue paper she had in the classroom (and told me how to make lanterns) so that Elsie’s would match. And for the Garden of Light festival, Ms Erin called me at home to talk about how and if Elsie would want to participate in the celebration with Quinn’s class.
The last sentence I wrote still amazes me. Think about it: a teacher took time out of her evening to call me to talk with me about my child – and not even my child who is enrolled in her class or even at her school! The Garden of Light festival is touching and moving (ask any parent who has watched it), but I cannot believe that anyone could be more touched and moved than I was as Ms Erin took Quinn’s hand and then reached out for the hand of my quirky, sensitive little Elsie, and shepherded them together through the spiral so that they could both bring a little light into the darkness.
Afterwards, I sat outside with another Lilac Kindergarten parent as we watched our kids play at the playground. It was the first Garden of Light festival for both of us, and we were both sort of overwhelmed with the sweetness and beauty of it, which easily expanded to the sweetness and beauty of the school itself. The other mom said to me, “I’ve made parenting decisions before where I think I made the wrong choice, but sending my kid to this school wasn’t one of them. I really got it right with that decision.”
I couldn’t agree with her more.