the last day of the first year of preschool

May 25th was my baby girls last day of preschool.  Moving forward they will be in the four year old class - and then they graduate high school.  It's all going so fast!  To celebrate the end of the year, the girls teachers hosted a play picnic at Ozzy's Family Fun Zone - a local haunt with mini golf, go-carts, skating, rock climbing, an arcade, and a HUGE CLIMBING ZONE!  Hurray!  We met the girls teachers and classmates at the designated time - I took a 1/2 day so that I could be with them and it was awesome, in a pivotal parenting kind of way.

I had been very eager to see how the girls behaved with other kiddos - I've been slightly skeptical of their readiness to move onto the 3 day program for some time now... While I know just how much the girls love learning and just how excited they were to go to school on Tuesday's and Thursday's I also thought that they appeared very "young" in comparison with the other students.  They didn't seem as confident, mature, or aware of their classmates, routines and surroundings.  Their love for crafts was astounding, but their dexterity seemed a bit behind.  They can't peddle a bike.  They recognize each and every letter and number, but they can't recreate them.  It appeared that I had two really happy little girls that were oblivious of the expectations around them.

I felt partly to blame in that we rarely get the kids out to see and play with other children their age... I mean, our house is pretty much a 24 hour playdate - but that doesn't help the kiddos learn how to get along with others. I didn't push letter recognition, sounding out of words, use of scissors or creating people with all the features.  I have only encouraged education based on their signals.  We read constantly.  They color, paint, or draw nearly every day - but unless the girls say "hey that rhymed" I'm not turning a cute story into a phonics lesson.  The other issue is unavoidably obvious... they're a twin - they have a build in best friend - someone who totally get's them and their routines... and this little fact of life has made the girls very comfortable in most surroundings.  They don't feel the need to seek out friends their age.  They have one - and she sleeps over every night.

Initially the end of year picnic was just what I thought - the girls clung to me and to each other... they looked at the fish in the koi pond, they held hands and walked around the towering germ tower that the other kids were gleefully scampering about.  They didn't seek out anyone, and no one really sought out them.  Then they got enough courage  to enter the four story fear factory... and things changed.  Belle boldly and eagerly scampered up to the first level - then tentatively explored all it had to offer.  Before Emma had the guts to follow her, Belle was on to the second level - and then the third.  Somewhere up there she connected with another little girl and I spent the next 10 minutes trying to locate her from 24 feet below.
Emma was terrified.  Completely at odds with herself.  She wanted nothing more than to follow her sister, and nothing more then to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground.  She hated being cooped in the closed climbing towers that you needed to go through to reach each level.  She hated the fact that the net floors moved when you climbed over them.  She was worried about her sister and mad at herself for not following in time.  At one point Belle and her companion touched ground long enough for me to snag her and ask her to take her sister with her to the top of the tower.  Belle agreed, but basically took off at full speed - their friend took a more maternal approach and coaxed Emma up each level, one at a time.

As an aside to this super fun snapshot into our life... it's these little moments that force you to look at your kiddos individually.  There are times that family, teachers, and nearly every parent present want to group "the girls" into a collective package... a two for 1 deal.  The dress color may change but the inside remains the same.  What I find so abso-freakin-lootly incredibly about my 4 kiddos is that they are four distinct children... and realizing that, accepting that and embracing that helps everything else appear clearer... End "aside"... back to the tower of terror...

They made it to the top... At first I thought Emma was giggling up there...  Happy she made it... but then I realized she was whimpering.  Then the whimpers turned to cries, and the cry to a slightly hysterical scream.  I could see the conflict on her classmates face - She didn't want to leave the reluctant Emma behind, but wanted to follow Belle and to continue playing.  I could see the raised eyebrows amongst the nearby parents - the word "meltdown" was muttered.  That was easy enough to brush off.  I called to Emma's guide to keep playing and then tried to re-assure Emma.  I assured her it was safe, that she was safe, that it was all okay.  "The floor is shaking!"  She called sensibly down to me... "Floors shouldn't move!"  How right you are, Emma.  And so we stood there for a bit, she and I, staring up and down at each other - me trying to telepathically send her the bravery that I know I wouldn't have had at that age but that time has allowed me to possess now - her trying to teleport herself down to me.  Each time a child rushed by Emma would cry again.  She was too scared to move forward, and too scared to come back down.

And so it was that I found myself - in a sundress - climbing the pink plastic tower - weaving my 5'7" frame through overlapping 2' openings designed for toddlers safety.  Every now and then some unsuspecting 3 year old turned a corner and shoved their head up my dress... they backed out, bewildered as I inched my way forward.  When I reached the top I saw my Emma clinging desperately to the ropes looking frantically for me on the ground.  She jumped a foot when I called her name.  Together we snaked back down the tower - pausing for photo ops in the bubbled windows for the curious moms on the ground.

Once safely on solid land I'm pleased to say that Emma, Belle, cute classmate and I all scoped out the tower and found one entrance that required no net walking  - and as a super bonus, it led straight to the holy grail of the play land - a 3 story twisting slide.  And this was the last that I saw my girls for the remaining 2 hours of the event.  They ran/climbed/slid a continual loop of tower, and slide.  I did witness Emma's conflict as some students went down the slide more that one person at a time - but mostly what I saw was three friends having a great time together.

I was pleased to see the girls remembered their manners during lunch.  I was pleased that they were 2 of the 4 (out of 30) kiddos that threw their trash away.  I was pleased that they ate their whole lunch.  I was pleased that they were kind, and considerate, and appreciative of the days events.  And when we gave their teachers their end of year gift that we had made the night before and they gave us the girls report card folders for the year I was re-assured that sending them to the 3 day program was, without a doubt, the right decision.  I was assured that the skills necessary for learning are all in place - and that the other secondary skills will come.  When I tentatively checked if there was something we should be working on at home (because I have never been one to turn home time into school time) I was told no - their love for learning is so evident and that is what will carry them forward.
Belle's report card and preschool memories

Belle's current artwork - she's been into families, bugs, and bob the tomato
Emma's report card and preschool memories
Emma's latest drawing - she has just entered the representational symbol stage.  Auntie kindly labeled the pictures.
Are the girls 100% perfect?  No.  You'll see some skills that still need to develop, some oddities between the September and May self portraits, but are they 100% happy and on target for 3 year olds?  Absolutely.  So with my decision made for next year and the girls goodbye's said to this year - the three DiStefano Girls walked hand in hand away from the tower and towards Big Red, towards a summer of fun, exploration, and growth, and toward the 4 year old preschool program in 2012-2013.


  1. So cute! Wish I could have seen the tower escapade! Wait until the boys turn. They will OWN that tower ... Hmmmmm or at least Alex will.... Because you are so right. They are completely different kids!!!