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Today is a day I’ve dreaded for quite some time: It’s Molly’s last day with us.

When Molly first arrived in February, I wasn’t sure if we were a good fit. I didn’t hear her the entire day, and she barely talked to me even when I asked her direct questions; for an extrovert like me, this aroused great suspicion. But I was desperate for regular help and mindful that she is/was quite young (only 18), so I had her come back a second day.

She still didn’t talk to me, but I worked upstairs that day and listened carefully to her interactions with Simon. What I heard was quite reassuring: She sang to him, read to him, and talked sweetly to him throughout the day. As the two of them got to know each other better, I’d hear them play silly games and go outside for walks, and on many days Simon will say or do something new for me that I’ll later discover Molly taught him.

As he shifted from baby to toddler and his moods got more volatile, the tone of their play hardly changed. When Simon got fussy, she kept her cool. If he awoke early and crabby from a nap, I’d hear her rock him and speak in low, soothing tones. It’s not that she has been as good to Simon as I would be, it’s that sometimes she’s been better. I’ve never heard her sound exasperated or lose her patience. She’s a natural.

This has not gone unnoticed by Simon. He adores her. If we ask him who’s coming to see him the next day, his first guess is usually “Mawee.” When we tell him she’s here in the morning, he gets audibly excited and makes a run for the door. When he sees her, his whole face lights up, and then he has to go plant his face in the couch cushions until his emotions are sufficiently under control to begin his day with her.

As perfect as this setup has been, it can’t continue. Molly goes off to college next week to a town a couple of hours from here, and Simon himself begins preschool tomorrow. I’m excited for Molly, as I had a grand four years in college and wish her the best. I’m excited for Simon, too, as I think preschool will be wonderful for him once he settles into it. But I’m also sad that this perfect little relationship is drawing to a close, worried that he will miss her terribly, and upset that I can’t explain to him what’s happening. I know that change and loss are unavoidable in life, but I haven’t mastered my own feelings about these inevitabilities, much less how to explain them to a tiny child.

The thing that’s keeping me smiling today is the most recent thing Molly taught him: “Homo.” That would be “Elmo” as run through the toddler translator. He’s only seen Elmo in a single DVD and in two books we have in the house. He’s seen the Goodnight Moon bunny, Peter Rabbit, or Curious George and the man in the yellow hat much more often, but I guess there’s something about Elmo that has stuck with him. I suppose “Elmo” is much easier to say than “George”, too. Still, I really hope the “l” in Elmo shows gets clearer soon, before the teachers at KIP start to wonder about how Simon’s parents talk at home.

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