On this day that is traditionally the first day of school, The Mama stands in
Sappy, whiny, sentimental
solidarity with family members everywhere sending their
Kids who are totally ready to go to school and have probably been ready for months but whose parents/grandparents/responsible adults are worried sick. Seriously! Think of all the things that could go wrong! I could send lunch money when all the other parents packed lunch, I could pack lunch when all the other parents sent lunch money, I could forget to pack lunch or send lunch money, thereby making me a pariah and–
babies to the first day of kindergarten. May your worries be unfounded, may your tears be few, and may the force be with you… or something.
A few days ago on a morning run, my running pals and I were making conversation. Idle chit-chat, at first glance. The kind that helps us get through the miles but that, in the aggregate, shines light into the corners of our souls.
“How are you dealing with Kindergarten?” the fastest of us asked.
“What?” I replied. “Oh. Great! Honestly, I am just excited for her. She is damn smart. She is really ready to be a reader.”
And with that, I brushed aside all thoughts of anxiety regarding my youngest–my only–child’s matriculation into the garden of children… until two Saturdays ago. On that day, it all came. At first it whispered, politely tiptoeing toward me. Shortly thereafter, it spoke more firmly and picked up its pace. Then it whacked me right over the head.
Because on that fateful Saturday, I found myself at Generic Department Store. Yes, the same one that gave me corduroy shorts with opaque tights in adolescence. Perms and bad bobs in my childhood. But that day, it gave me something else: anxiety.
On that far-from-fine day, The Mama decided to buy The Kidling’s new school clothes. Pretty striped cotton dresses, practical tees and leggings, perhaps a fall jacket… things that scream “The Kindergartner from The Middle(west).” And I did find those things. It’s just that I also found other…
Things that I wasn’t ready to see in size 5. The details aren’t worthy of recounting,
Tight things, short things, one-shouldered things, things with words I don’t want to read in places I don’t want to read them
but the outcome is: fear. Genuine, chest-tightening fear. Fear of the influence of the world. Fear that The Dada and I will no longer control the message. Fear that–god forbid–The Kidling will actually want those awful things.
Fear that the world won’t be kind.
Fear that The Kidling won’t be kind.
Fear that she will struggle–with friendships, with learning, with anything.
Fear that she will be cruel to friends who struggle.
Fear that she will be judged.
Fear that she will judge.
Fear that she will be hurt.
Fear that she will hurt.
I was so busy with my fear that I nearly forgot to notice today. But first times are sacred and deserve to be memorialized. So, to you, Dear Kidling, I write:
Dear The Kidling (and friends);
After you went outside in your perfect first-day-of-school outfit and played with sidewalk chalk in your perfect-first-day-of-school outfit and covered your perfect-first-day-of-school outfit with said sidewalk chalk and apologized for covering your perfect-first-day-of-school outfit with sidewalk chalk and went inside to take off your perfect-first-day-of-school outfit and changed into clothes.
you went to Kindergarten. Kindergarten! I know you are a genius, but this seems extreme. You were, after all, born just yesterday.
A few weeks ago, we sat on our front steps and ate ice cream. When I thanked you for being part of my life, you laughed at me. Then you shrugged your tiny little shoulders
Shoulders on which the weight of the world seems sometimes to rest.
and said “Well, you created me,” because you had no choice in the matter.
Which is kind of awesome, because I know you would choose Nana.
Whether by choice or by nature, I am ridiculously lucky to have you. Not that I am foolish enough to think that you are meant to be had. Rather, I am so, so fortunate to have you here. With me. With The Dada. Every day, as part of our crazy little ride on this planet. And, for what it’s worth, I have no idea what I did to deserve you, but whatever it was, I am damn glad I did it. And if that thing that I did occurred in a past life, then I am seriously thanking dead-previous-The-Mama.
Really. Thank you for not being a total jerk to someone with the power to ensure future-The-Mama got screwed over with a boring, bratty kid.
On such a monumental day, I don’t have nearly as much advice as I wish I did. What little I have to offer is so very important: No matter what, be you. Always be you. Even when you forget who “you” are. Even when you lose “you.” Even when the “you” you find is wholly different from the one you lost. Be you. Strong, kind, quirky, clever, smart, stubborn, loving, rambunctious, curious, agile, witty, loud, beautiful, spunky, mouthy,
but not too mouthy
you. Because I love the shit out of you. And I always will.
* This post originally appeared (in an ever-so-slightly different form) in Kidlingville on September 3, 2013. And you know what? Not a damn thing has changed.