Today my son is officially a toddler, and I am unexpectedly sad. I don’t think I’m sad that I’m leaving infancy behind – for good. I think I’m mostly sad because, as he moves into the big, messy, exciting, fun world of the toddler room, he’s leaving behind the infant teachers who know his every cry, gesture, strength, and weakness. They know just what temperature he likes his milk and how he likes his back rubbed when he nods off for a nap. They understand his language and know when to catch him and when to let him fall.
It makes me sad because my 5-year-old doesn’t remember her infant teachers. Both had babies of their own shortly after she became a toddler, and we haven’t seen them more than a few times since then. Beth and Rati will be an inextricable part of my memories of my daughter’s infancy, but they are not even a part of her consciousness. Are Christine and Sarah destined for the same fate? As my son sits proudly at the toddler table, exhausts himself on the playground climber, and endlessly runs the sink in his new classroom, will his adoring teachers, whom he depended on just last week for all his weekday food, and diapers, and comfort, and love, become distant memories in his young mind? The honest truth is: probably. But they will forever be a part of my life. What they have given to my son will always be a part of what I cherish when I remember the days he first sat up, first crawled, got his first tooth, said his first words and took his first steps.
Several years ago I wrote an ode to my daughter’s infant teachers, I have updated and reprized it and dedicate it to my son’s infant teachers today:
It takes grace and art and skill and patience and precision to be an infant teacher: to teach babies to learn how to comfort themselves to sleep; to teach even the most stubborn 1-year-old to learn to use a cup; to teach them to learn to eat at the table, to figure out a new toy, to overcome frustration, to be proud of their accomplishments. If you don’t believe it, you try teaching someone who can’t talk, can’t walk, and can’t understand your language how to be a loving, gentle soul, and that the world is safe as long as you are there by her side. Teach someone who cannot hold a paintbrush how to make masterful works of art. Teach someone with no teeth how to enjoy the fruits of the earth. Teach someone who cannot support himself how to literally stand proud on his own. And then, teach them how to talk, walk, and understand your language. And do it all in just a few months. Benjamin’s teachers are amazing, wonderful young women. They are talented and confident and kind. They are guardians of miracles, and they make miracles happen every day.