To my daughters teacher,
For fifteen long months I have sat here each day with a tight knot of angst in the pit of my stomach, checking the clock, counting down the minutes, feeling completely on edge until twenty past three when I could go to school, pick up Eva and soothe away her worries.
Today is very different, and that’s entirely down to you.
When Eva first started in your class this September it was incredibly hard for the both of us. After twelve months of tears every bedtime, and hysterics every morning, I was hopeful that Year 1 would be a very different experience, that the happy little girl I saw during the Summer holidays would carry through to September, that the stress of the previous year would soon be a distant memory.
And I was devastated when that proved not to be the case.
I’m sure that when Eva landed in your class, you assumed she was just a very shy little girl who simply lacked confidence, who naturally spoke in that timid little whisper, who was taking a little longer to settle than her peers. And I’m sure as a teacher, I would have assumed the same.
As a parent, as Eva’s Mummy, I was desperate to ask you to take care of her for me each day, to be kind to her, to speak gently to her, to remember that she wasn’t just another child in your class, that she was so very special for so many reasons, none of which I could bring myself to say out loud.
I wanted to tell you that we waited eight long years for another baby in our arms, that, for every day of those nine long months, I had been convinced we would lose her in just the same way we had her big brother. I wanted to tell you that the moment she was born, when she opened her eyes and screamed at the top of her lungs, as we introduced her to Lewis for the very first time, it was the happiest moment of our whole lives.
I wanted to tell you about the nights I had lain awake, long after she started sleeping through, just watching her chest go up and down, listening to those snuffly little baby sounds, pinching myself that she was really ours to keep.
I wanted to tell you how every smile, every babbled word, every adorable little giggle, had healed my heart in ways I wasn’t even sure was possible. I wanted to tell you how she saved me from all of that sadness, with that beautiful smile and those big blue eyes, living proof that regardless of what we went through, she was worth it a thousand times over.
I wanted to tell you that the quiet little girl who sat in your classroom each day was so much more than she appeared to be.
But it’s hard to know what to say in the hustle and bustle of the playground, especially when I had a lump in my throat and couldn’t trust myself to speak. It was difficult to find a moment, to find the right words without sounding crazy, to work out how to tell you that the little girl who came to school each day wasn’t my little girl at all.
Because that silent little girl is not the same Eva who shouts and sings at the top of her voice, who is mischievous, cheeky and more than a little bit crazy. The Eva who looks so terrified at drop off isn’t the same little girl who is so bold and brave and full of big ideas, whose imagination, enthusiasm and zest for life have no limits.
The Eva who stands there each morning in tears, with those big sad eyes and downturned mouth, isn’t the same little girl whose eyes twinkle when she smiles, whose laugh is infectious, who is so incredibly beautiful that she genuinely takes my breath away.
The Eva who sits in your class each day is not the same little girl we first sent to school just fifteen months ago.
There hasn’t been a day over the last fifteen months when we haven’t tried to help her, when we haven’t spoken to her about her worries or begged her to tell us what we can do to help. We’ve tried reward charts and the promise of treats, we’ve crossed days off on the calendar, made lists and photo books, popped special toys in her book bag and love hearts on our hands.
We’ve spent hours pouring over parenting websites and chatting with friends, veered between speaking softly and doling out the tough love; we’ve got upset and frustrated and probably handled it in all the wrong ways at times, and all the right ways at others, but still nothing at all has worked.
And seeing her change like that, following me from room to room, crying herself to sleep at bedtime, pleading with me not to send her to school each morning, physically shaking at the thought of getting in that line each day, has been soul destroying. Knowing that my little girl was still in there somewhere, but not knowing how to get her back, has undoubtedly been one of my biggest challenges to date.
Last week as you approached me at pick up, I braced myself for whatever it was you had to tell me. I assumed, with the start of the second term, there would be more pressure to get Eva into the line each morning, that I would come away feeling completely at a loss as to how to make that happen. So when you told me you recognised that this was so much more than a little girl struggling to settle, I sensed a glimmer of hope. When you identified that it had become a form of separation anxiety, I felt reassured that I wasn’t going crazy. And when you told me you wanted to work together to help her, I could have cried with relief.
As you told me about your plans, the role play you had done that day, the kind friend you had recruited for the line each morning, the story board and special reward chart, designed specially with her favourite things, I was so touched at the lengths you had gone to. And most of all, after fifteen long months and all of those mornings, I was just so incredibly relieved that you had thrown us a lifeline.
And so for the last five mornings, Eva has woken with a smile on her face. She has skipped into school, lined up with her friend, chatted, smiled and giggled away, and I have waved her goodbye and left without a moments hesitation or tear. And more than that, she has come home from school each day, bubbling with excitement, telling me about the latest sticker on her chart or the special activity she was allowed to choose, her eyes shining, her smile genuine.
When I went away earlier this week she no longer clung to me as I left, and when I rang her each night she couldn’t wait to tell me of the wonderful things she had done at school each day. When I returned home last night and crept up to kiss her goodnight, I swear that her little face looked relaxed for the first time in months, and when she woke this morning and fell into my arms I was grateful that not only was I back, but so was she.
They say it takes a big heart to shape little minds, and I am so grateful that Eva has a teacher who has shown her such kindness, understanding and patience. It takes just one teacher to make an impression on a child which can last a lifetime and I’m sure, when Eva looks back in years to come, she will remember a teacher who taught her that there is nothing at all to be afraid of, that school can be pretty wonderful, and who believed in her long before she believed in herself.
To my daughters teacher, thank you for giving us our little girl back.