I teach a preschool class at my church on Sunday mornings. I have been with most of this same group of kids since they were two and could not yet form complete sentences when they spoke. Now most of them are five. They not only talk in complete sentences, but they talk in paragraph after paragraph…usually all at once…usually with my name, Mrs. Donna, interjected at the beginning of every new paragraph. I try hard to listen to all they have to say every week.
When the class year was drawing to a close when they were two, I made the decision to move up with them to the three-year-old class. My youngest son who helps me in the class moved up with me. When the year was ending when they were three, I decided to move up with them to the four-year-old class. My son moved up as well.
Now, most of the kids in the class have or are turning five. They are very proud to announce that numerous times every Sunday morning. Being five is a big deal.
When the time soon comes for them to move out of the preschool department to the grammar school age children’s department, I’m going with them. I can’t help it…they stole my heart a couple of years ago, so I have to keep moving up with them. When they graduate from high school, I will probably go live in a dormitory somewhere with them. They all need to go to the same college.
Anyway, yesterday one of the little girls in the class, one of them that I have held in my arms on a lot of Sundays since she was two came in to the classroom. We had not seen each other in a few weeks because I was gone and she was gone and yesterday, we were just happy to be together again. I asked her about her T-ball season and what her favorite part of playing T-ball is…batting, of course…and we chatted about T-ball for a while. Then she mentioned something about her dad and how he had cheered for THAT college team. Her expression had changed from the excited talking-about-T-ball-expression that had just been on her face to a bummed-out look.
I was a little surprised that her dad cheered for this particular SEC college team because this little girl has worn a small-sized cheer-leading outfit for a rival SEC college team many times to church…that’s what we do in the south…at least in the SEC…at least in Alabama.
I listened quietly to her and then she looked at me with a piercing, questioning look and asked the question that we have avoided for the last three years, “Mrs. Donna are you a __________ fan?”…with the name of her favorite SEC college team filled in the blank.
I took a moment and gathered my courage. Even after I had gathered all of the courage that I could gather as I looked into this five-year-old’s precious eyes, I only told her half the truth…the truth, but only half of it. I told her that I had grown up in Arkansas and that since the time that I was the age that she is now I have been a Razorback fan. Her face fell. My face fell at her face falling. I hoped that I had not permanently damaged our friendship. I couldn’t bear to her that I am also a fan of that other school.
I tried to tell her about the calling-the-hogs-cheer that every Razorback fan knows, but her countenance remained a little disappointed. My young friend was coming of age in Alabama…coming to the point of realization that some people you like and respect and even love “go” for the other team.
These kids and I have endured a lot together: diapers, diaper bags, sippy cups, most episodes of VeggieTales, a lot of giggles and fun and some tears and missing mommies and daddies during the hours we have been together. Just add this “coming of age” moment to the list.