My daughter Ashley came home from preschool proudly holding a sunflower sprout. It was a seed planted inside a homemade newspaper pot, generously watered and growing strong, its leaves standing firm and brawny perched on their stem.
Seeing my 4-year-old daughter so excited to plant her sprout in the garden and watch it grow was both heartwarming and symbolic to me. The sunflower was iconic of the growth I have witnessed Ashley experience as a preschooler this year. It is symbolic of all the students in her class, most of who will go on to kindergarten in the fall. Where did the time go?
Ashley began her preschool experience as a seed, willing to grow and learn, with a little tenderness, love and encouragement. As a premature seed, she learned morning routines of saying goodbye to mom and dad and hello to her beloved teachers. She learned how to take care of her body by washing her hands and respect her belongings, learning to put her coat on her hook, her lunchbox in the right place.
As the year progressed her stem grew stronger, as did her confidence, learning to raise her hand when she had something to share, a lesson in patience and self-control. She learned responsibility and respecting another’s belongings by borrowing books and bringing her book bag to school each day. She was given choices at school and how she wanted to start her day, whether by painting with potato mashers, digging for worms, sculpting Play-doh, scooping out the innards of pumpkins, painting in bare feet or eating snacks that she may not have been exposed to. Those included tamales, Costa Rican ensalada and won-tons.
As a sproutlet, Ashley grew confident in her learning environment, forming strong friendships with her classmates, enjoying after-school play dates and placing new value on the word family and community.
As her bulb forms, it will represent the many hidden academic lessons learned this year inside the classroom and during circle time, the meaning of holidays like Christmas and Easter, the fun of Halloween, and the significance of President’s Day and Chinese New Year. And of course, she will learn how great it feels to have all eyes on you on your birthday.
The sunflower is used as a symbol of green ideology, and Ashley this year learned a lot about the Earth and how to respect it. It started at the beginning of the year by planting and caring for the school garden, learning nurturing skills and compassion. Ashley learned about plants and animals with field trips and also the importance of recycling and to avoid becoming a “litterbug.” She watched as chrysalises formed and butterflies emerged, encouraging a deep-rooted respect for nature and its endless fascinations.
As I continue to watch Ashley’s special sunflower grow, I will think of her preschool years and how as a parent it has brightened each of my days as well. I will also look at her flower’s interior florets, how they will signify the friendships our children have formed and the community to which they belong. Its golden pedals will stand for our children’s interests, all nurtured and exposed through the fruits of preschool. Its strong, thick stem will represent the confidence, self-esteem and strong sense of self her preschool years have provided her with. The flower’s roots will denote the sturdy and unshakable community that makes San Carlos so special.
We will always remember her extraordinary teachers who made this all possible by lovingly teaching my daughter how to respectfully plant a seed and watch it grow.
It’s off to kindergarten next year for Ashley. It seems like just yesterday I was teaching her to walk and talk and tickling her knees just to elicit her adorable giggle. Many moms say these early years are fleeting and I couldn’t agree more. I guess we all have to make some time to admire the sunflowers.