My Love Letter to AUCP

When Zoe was born I began to receive advice from friends with children—“apply to preschools right away—they’re very hard to get into around here!” Never one to ignore a cautionary tale, when Zoe was almost a year old I started preschool shopping, expecting to apply and be waitlisted and have her start school at two. We applied to three preschools and I definitely loved AUCP most—expansive classrooms and all that natural light! Despite being in the lower level of the church, AUCP was the only one that didn’t feel like a church basement. And Randy was an AUCP alum and my mother-in-law had been a co-oper! Much to my surprise, we were offered a spot in the Panda class right away, and Zoe started at AUCP when she was 17 months old. I still remember that before-school Panda gathering on the AUCP playground, and watching other small girls toddle around the sandbox with Zoe, thinking we couldn’t possibly be starting preschool.

Now I can’t believe we can possibly be leaving preschool. Zoe is five and while we are excited about kindergarten (she’ll be attending Abingdon in the fall) we are sad to be leaving AUCP. I don’t want to bring it up too much with Zoe (thank you for the advice, Ms. Susan) but I know I’m sad. I will be leaving my friends too. While I’m sure some of us will stay in touch, there’s no replacing the daily conversations in the lobby, chats on the playground, and sympathetic looks you get in the hallway at pick-up or drop-off when your child is going berserk. I am sad to be leaving a place where I know I can trust any grown-up in sight to watch out for my child, even if I don’t know that person’s name. I am sad to be leaving a place where I am confident that all the grown-ups will be kind to and patient with my child. I am sad to be leaving a place where grown-ups and kids alike can be as creative as they wish, treat each other with respect, and have so much fun. I can think of few places in the real world where process is valued so much more than product.

My heart is filled with love and gratitude for all of Zoe’s teachers over the past four years. They have taught me as much as they have Zoe. I am thankful for Ms. Elizabeth’s boundless love and patience and her willingness to always greet a child at child eye level and that she remembers everyone who was ever a Panda. I am thankful for Mr. Peter’s sense of humor and the effort he put into creating learning opportunities for the kids. I am thankful for Ms. Aasma’s infectious enthusiasm and zest for life and for the fact that she never misses an opportunity to stop what she is doing and give Zoe a hug whenever she sees her. I am thankful for Ms. Patricia’s steadfast serenity in the midst of chaotic children and the insightful questions she asks them. I am thankful for Ms. Julie’s thoughtful planning and her ability to teach our children how to greet her and each other with lovely manners. I am thankful for Ms. U’s inspirational creativity and the countless hours she must spend at home preparing unbelievably cool art projects for our kids. I am thankful for Ms. Susan’s constant sense of calm and friendliness that she infuses into the entire school. Her advice and wisdom, which usually boils down to, “Listen, it’s going to be ok. You’re going to be ok, your child is going to be ok. It’s ok” has reassured me many, many times throughout the past four years. Sometimes when you’re in the middle of some craziness with your child it’s impossible to believe it’s going to be ok. But Susan, you’re right.

I am thankful for the parents who did nice things for Zoe when you co-oped. I am thankful for the parents who told me she was ok during the various periods of separation anxiety when I would have to physically hand Zoe to a parent or teacher while she screamed and I tried to make my exit without breaking down myself. I am thankful to the parents who made and delivered meals to us when Zoe had surgery. I am thankful for anyone who ever spotted Zoe on the monkey bars, risking back pain for the rest of the day. I am thankful for Ms. Susan, Ms. Patricia, and Ms. Aasma welcoming Zoe (and us) back with open arms after our time away. I am thankful to all the parents who supported us and loved us when we came back. I am thankful that no one ever complained when Zoe had an accident and no one ever made her feel bad about it. I am thankful for the friendship, the commiseration, the advice. I am thankful that I’ve always known you all have my back.

I’ve often said that co-oping—for me—is like going to the gym. I don’t especially want to do it, and it’s usually really hard while I’m doing it, but afterward I’m really glad I did it and I know I’m a better person for it. I have learned from other parents and all of Zoe’s teachers and Ms. Raylene, Ms. Diann, and Ms. Susan smart and interesting ways of being with children I would never have thought of myself. I value the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Zoe’s classmates and friends much better than if I weren’t in the classroom on a regular basis. I love that I’ve had the chance to work alongside parents with so many different ideas and attitudes and learned a lot from all of them. And co-oping has also given me the wonderful opportunity to talk with other teachers besides Zoe’s. I have loved every continuing education event I’ve attended and (I know I’m a nerd) I love the fact that we are required to always be learning about kids.

Our family is so lucky to have been members of the AUCP family for the past four years. Thank you for your unconditional love. We will miss you. Hopefully someday we’ll be back. We’ll send you a postcard from kindergarten.