“Boys and Girls, catch a bubble,” she almost yelled as she held her arms up like a football goal post. Just like that, thirteen rowdy preschool children filled their cheeks with air and became completely silent. I was in awe, possibly in love, and fairly convinced I should quickly get a degree in early childhood education. What was this bubble magic?
My husband and I had chosen to send our son to preschool out of desperation; hoping to help him learn and cope with separation and social anxieties. We’d spent three years walking on eggshells, just surviving most days, and barely sleeping most nights. I called him my “womb baby,” because he never seemed quite ready to leave the womb; a truth that was hard for all of us. We knew we needed a change of pace.
But how does a first-time, stay-at-home mom send her nervous baby into the world with a bunch of strangers without feeling guilty and scared? I was quickly gaining plenty of my own anxieties, to say the least. I felt like a failure. I begged God for help.
When I first met our son’s preschool teacher – a young, newly-wed, non-mommy going into her first year of teaching a full-time classroom – I thought it was a joke. “She won’t be able to do this,” I worried. “They’ll send him home within the first week. Call the therapist! We need backup!”
No, seriously, I called a therapist. He assured us that preschool would be the best move, that we had chosen a good school, and to meet with him again in a couple months to discuss the changes. I was skeptical. I thought it was harsh. No one could love and manage our son like we could. I felt helpless.
“Why was he seemingly born with anxiety?” I wanted to know. “Did we do something wrong? What if this new experience damages him for life? What if it damages me?”
Despite all the good advice from friends and relatives with similar stories, all the books and articles we read, the prayers we said, my faith was lost. But God works in mysterious ways. This one, desperate prayer would be answered in the form of a preschool teacher.
From the beginning, she listened to me, saw my fear, and took my flailing, crying boy into her arms anyway while I raced out the door. It happened again and again for weeks, even months, but she never gave up. While I sobbed in the parking lot most mornings after drop-off, she learned about our son and earned his trust. She cared. She took photos of him playing happily with the other kids and participating in projects, and sent them to my phone. She promised that the worst part of the whole day was the morning routine that lasted only a matter of minutes and got progressively easier.
I’ll never forget the relief and joy in my heart as I began to see the progression too. I cried and laughed simultaneously the first time our son asked, “Mom, can I go to school today?”
She taught him colors and letters and things that I struggled to help him grasp. She gave me pointers. She encouraged him to try new things and put on his own shoes, and she praised him when he did a good job. She learned his interests, asked him questions, and guided him through any difficulties. When I inquired about his communication skills and education level, she said he’d run NASA someday.
“It’s all there,” she said. “He just has to let it out, and we can show him how.” She did exactly what I would have done. She mothered him. She loved him and, in turn, loved us. Without meaning to, this amazing woman taught me in less than a year how to trust, to let go, to be patient, to listen to my gut over everyone else, to persevere, and (my personal favorite) how to catch a bubble. She changed me, blessed us, helped us grow, and gave our son the gift of confidence.
What would we do without great teachers? Schools? Churches? Friends? Family? Therapists? It takes a village, indeed. We’re better mothers together.
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This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series: “We’re Better Mothers Together.”