I’m standing next to the school principal during the preschool open house. My name tag denotes me as head of our school’s parent association. The room is packed with parents of preschoolers who are pondering if this private school is right for their child. I thought I’d feel old since I haven’t been a preschool parent for more than five years now, and I sat at this same presentation nine years ago. But so many of these parents are holding newborns or entertaining toddlers as they listen to the speakers. These parents look tired, making me feel youthful.
I stare at a baby who is taking up her mom’s energy. The baby is adorable and I want to hold this baby. I want to accost this woman and ask if I can hold her baby. Then I would hold the tiny infant in my arms and rock back and forth and close my eyes and remember when I WANTED SOMEONE ELSE TO HOLD MY BABY.
There is so much energy humming in this room. I can’t hear the thoughts that are causing all those ions to collide, but I remember my own thoughts from long ago. “These are some old chairs. Oh! My child will learn Spanish at this school! Is it too Catholic here for me?”
And now it’s nine years later and I can’t read which person is thinking what thought, or if their thoughts are anything like mine. But I know the worry, and the thought that the right school will make all the difference. I know I was tired, and I wanted my kids in school for as long as possible every day as soon as possible. I will pay you a lot of money to get them out of my eyesight and into your school, I thought. It seems really nice here.
It is really nice here. I love this school, it’s true, it’s been a Godsend for my kids. But what I want to do right now from where I am standing in the back of the room next to the principal is to act like a crazy lady. I want to say, “Hey, just a minute, excuse me, I have something to say!”
And then the current speaker, a kindergarten teacher, would say, “Oh yes, here’s Nancy, a wonderful parent volunteer…’
I’d interrupt her. I’d speak fast and my words would be loud.
“It goes so fast! Enjoy the ride! That baby you are holding, she’ll be 13 before you know it, as tall as you are right now! Can I hold your babies? They grow up fast!” I would yell.
The room would be silent. Someone’s phone might ding. The kindergarten teacher would breathe deeply and say, “Um, thanks, now to get back to the curriculum at our school…”
The principal would turn to me with understanding in her eyes. She’d say, “I know Nancy, my baby is turning 40, it goes so fast.”
She’d hug me, this lady. And I’d breathe out into this room that is buzzing with parental concern. After a loud sigh, I’d say, “I didn’t know I’d love it so, this parenting thing I hated back when my kids were in preschool. It goes so fast.”
Then the principal would whisper to me, “Maybe you should go home and hold onto to your babies. See you tomorrow.”
Like a flash I’d race home, ready to trade jokes with my teen and hold my third grader close.
But I stay mute, watching ions collide off of eager parents. Still, as soon as the presentation ends and I’ve stacked the ancient chairs one upon another, I do race home, ready to soak in the presence of my teen and third grader. Gone are the days that I want long breaks from this crazy parenting ride. It goes fast. Enjoy the ride.