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Separation Angst

This morning I watched my twelve year old daughter jogging across the parking lot-her long legs, the oversized backpack slung over her shoulders, her ponytails swinging in the breeze. It was one of those moments that take you by surprise, a moment of disorientation, an unexpected burst of nostalgia. Wasn’t she just a toddler? Wasn’t she just learning to read? To ride a bike? What happened to her chubby cheeks or the gap between her two top teeth? Right before my eyes, she’s a teenager.

Madison and I have been in Montessori school together since she was two and a half. She was a Montessori student for ten years and I was her teacher for four of the ten years. This year she is off to another school. This is the first time that I don’t know all her teachers, all her friends, all her friends’ parents. This is the first time that I don’t know the intricate details of how her school works. I don’t know each individual educator’s philosophy, I don’t know their backgrounds and experiences, I don’t know their favorite foods, favorite vacation spots, favorite books. The truth is that When Madison and I were in school together, even when she wasn’t in my classroom, when she wasn’t my student anymore; she was still being raised by my family. By the teachers who I know so well and who know me, my family and our values.

The experience that most parents usually have in the toddler or preschool years, I am having with my seventh grader. I thought I was prepared for that very thing. I shed a few tears on the first day or two of school. I talked with my friends about it-a lot. But really, it’s the moments like this morning, when I was not really even thinking about much, that catch me off guard. I am entrusting my daughter to a group of teachers and administrators, who I barely know. I am entrusting her to these educators because it was time for her to move on, though it was a hard decision. I trust them because my daughter is happy and challenged and making friends and growing. But it’s hard, just as it’s hard for parents to let their little ones walk through the doors of our school for the first time.

In this new position of mine, as interim Head of school, I have the pleasure of greeting every parent and every child in the morning. I see many, many smiles. However, I have also seen tears fall from the eyes of both parents and children as they separate for the day. It’s hard to put our children in the hands of someone else. It’s hard to let them spread their wings, sometimes. Even though we know that’s what our children need for us to do.

I also have the gratification of seeing what happens after the child transitions into the classroom, after he or she puts on slippers and chooses a work for the day. Their world is open, their curiosity is piqued and their life becomes that much richer. When we send our children off to school we give them a gift. When we allow them to follow their interests, their curiosities and their passions we give them the world.

I know I won’t know Madison’s new teachers the way I knew her teachers at HMS and I know that I won’t know the intricacies of her days the way I did when she was here. I know the day will come when Max will leave HMS, as well (although he is lobbying for an HMS high school). I realize that I am in a unique position and always have been when it comes to my children’s education.

After Madison got on the bus this morning, after she waved to me and the doors to the bus shut, I thought immediately of the parents here at HMS. I thought of you saying good-bye to your children in the lobby and how hard it can sometimes be. And though, you may not need the reassurance, I wanted you to know there is joy in this place. There is love and peace and a whole lot of great learning happening here. Thank you for trusting us with your children. We are grateful to have them.

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