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I don’t know how it happened. It’s cliche but it’s true. It seems like yesterday the nurse placed her in my arms for the first time and boom – I was a mom. Now here we are, nearly five years later, and we are getting ready to send this bright eyed little girl who loves to change her clothes 18748324 times per day to a school, all day, with a uniform. We are taking this tiny being, who just yesterday it seems was a squishy newborn and pushing her out into the real world.
I have all sorts of doubts about this. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m worried. I’m scared. Is the world ready for this fierce little girl with a sassy attitude? Is she ready to stand up for herself when people tell her she can’t? Am I ready to take a step back – to let her follow her own path, be her own person, and let her out of this bubble I have created for her?
So much has happened in these five years. Your daddy left on deployment when you were only 3 months old. For those 8 months it was just you and me. We survived, with lots of tears of course, but we did it together. All my firsts as a mother have been with you. My first worries, my first joys. You are my oldest. The one that made me a mother. How is it possible that you are already growing up? I don’t know how I’m going to let you walk through those school doors alone. And I know you. You’re going to be nervous. You might even cry, and that will break my heart into a million pieces. You know, all a mother wants is to protect her child from any negative emotion, even when we know what we are doing is best for her. And this is best for you.
I have been waiting for this day, but for selfish reasons. I thought your first day of kindergarten would come as a weight off my shoulders and a sigh of relief. I thought I would be pouring a mimosa and cheering to the fact that I had one less body to take care of all day, every day. But instead I find myself holding my breath, clenching my fists, and my heart pounding as I picture what life is going to be like for you from this moment on. My mind races to my school career – the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are so many things I want to shield you from, and up until this day I was able to do that. Now things are no longer in my hands. Did I do enough to prepare you? Did I teach you how to stand up for yourself, but also to be respectful of others? Do you know what to do in an emergency? I won’t be there to help you anymore and it terrifies me.
I can already see where you might end up as you grow older. You are easily influenced, and that worries me. But you also make friends quickly, and I am sure you will have no problems in that department. You are wicked smart and you have your daddy’s steel-trap memory. You also have mommy’s temper which might get you in trouble. I see how hard you focus on a task at hand, and how creative you can be when a random set of art supplies are placed in front of you. I’ve seen you take care of your little sisters and I’ve watched as you do things independently that I was sure you weren’t ready to do yet. I know you’ll succeed during your first year at school because I know you’re ready; I have no doubts about that.
It’s your father and I that I’m worried about.
Do you remember what you said the moment she was born? You couldn’t take your eyes off her slimy little body, and you whispered, to no one in particular, that this was the best day of your life. I don’t know if you know that I heard you, but I did. And when you came home from deployment you stepped right back into fatherhood as if you never left. And now our little girl is going off into the real world where we can’t keep her from mean kids or scary situations. We won’t be right there next to her to assure her things are going to be okay.
Before we know it she will be asking for a cellphone to talk to friends, locking her door, and bringing home hushed secrets of a new crush. We will be wondering how to parent this child – the child that once danced around our living room singing “All About the Bass” and sat on your lap while you played guitar together. The baby girl who spent 3 months climbing into our bed every night and snuggling up next to you. The little person that was swallowed up by wires and IVs and a giant hospital bed while we sat there wondering if she would ever wake up. The one that has your dimples and my attitude. She’s big now, and there’s no turning back for us as parents. We have entered a new phase, a new place in our lives and in hers. We were once her whole story – now we are just the first chapter.
You are handling this so much better than I am. I’ve always been the feeler in this relationship, and now it’s coming out in full force.
I mean, moms get a bad rap when it comes to this whole kindergarten thing. We are either labeled as a blubbering mess (raises hand) or kicking our kids out the door (also raises hand…). You have a million emotions coursing through your veins but which one is going to come out during that first day?
Probably all of them.
But she’s ready. You know she’s ready. You can’t keep her locked in a bubble forever, even though that’s what you want to do. I know, I know – you’re thinking of all those mean girls in school. How in 3rd grade someone made fun of you and you called them a really nasty name in retaliation. How in 4th grade someone told you that you were ugly. How in 6th grade the kids made fun of you for something – you don’t remember what – but you do remember crying in the bathroom.
You are remembering all those girls you teased because the other kids were doing it. You are thinking of all those times you watched someone else slump in their seat from embarrassment. You remember being in high school, hugging your friend in the bathroom because she had given her virginity to a guy that dumped her the next day.
You are thinking of all these things and thinking that it’s going to happen to her. And yes, some of it might. All of it might, because that’s life. Your instinct is to run, take her by her little innocent kindergarten hand, and never let her out of your sight. You want to shield her. You want to protect her. You never want her to feel any of those hard feelings.
But mama, you did your job so far. You got her ready for this next adventure. And you still have a heck of a lot of parenting to do; parenting that will be harder than watching your little girl walk into her kindergarten classroom without you.
So for today, let the tears fall. Be scared. Let your heart ache and your belly quiver. Ugly cry the entire way home while listening to Adele because she just gets you. Hold the ones you still have at home and promise yourself you won’t let them grow up even though you know you can’t stop it. Show up at the carpool line 45 minutes early simply because you can’t wait at home any longer before going to pick her up. Watch your little girl run into your arms with a giant smile on her face, showing you in one fell-swoop that she missed you but that she also had an amazing first day of school.
And then take a deep breath, because you have to do it all over again tomorrow.