Our family is preparing to say goodbye to one of the most invaluable influences in our childrens’ lives and our own as young parents.
I remember first starting out at Grow With Me. How my oldest son sprung from my arms headstrong into the action on the playground. How the parents who approached me were so kind but their faces blurred together and I couldn’t remember anybody’s name for weeks as I bounced my toddler around in an Ergo. How Ms. Katy welcomed all of the children with loving enthusiasm and held my youngest with warmth and familiarity while I executed volunteer duties.
I remember how the classroom began to feel like a refuge, with its soft colors and wooden toys, how pleased I was when my son wrapped a silk around a babydoll and nurtured it. This was before he found his tribe of rambunctious young boys who tromped around with sticks playing rough-and-tumble games despite most parents’ efforts to refrain from encouraging gender-specific play.
My son made a best friend. He gleaned his first innocent kiss. He ran and played and explored and splashed in puddles and planted seeds and dug in the dirt and constructed lean-to shelters and watched tadpoles grow. Every time I dropped him off, it felt like I was giving him a precious gift of a childhood from another simpler era. He is now thriving in school, and I feel like Ms. Katy and the classroom community played a huge part in this.
As a mother, I relished the guidance that our conscious discipline training provided us. I began to understand where my child’s big emotions were coming from and how to react to them in a way that was helpful. I gained language skills, ways to connect with my son in a way I never had before.
We all gained a loving community.
When my oldest graduated from the program and my youngest started attending, he felt right at home in a seamless transition. He’d been going to Grow With Me for as long as he could remember, after all. His enthusiasm for creative play and close friendship was stoked, he was gently reminded to be inclusive and kind, and he was encouraged to be assertive.
When he was sick in the hospital, Ms. Katy came and stroked his hand and told him a story while he was sitting through tedious testing. His classmates made him a bundle of cards that he still keeps by his bedside as a reminder of their love. He also made a best friend and gleaned a first innocent kiss. (Though this experience seems to be very specific to our family; please don’t be scared off by this intimation. I don’t know what it is about my two boys; I like to think they are simply affectionate. Ms. Katy holds strong boundaries in the classroom and encourages consent when it comes to ANY type of contact- a hug, a handshake, etc)
My youngest son will graduate in May. I don’t know exactly what it will feel like to not be a part of such a beautiful, thriving community of families, but I do know I don’t have to worry- we have made lifelong friends here. I do know that joining Grow With Me was the most unexpectedly rich and nurturing experience, and that I and my boys will reap the benefits of it for many years to come.