|Here's what's amazing about this pic: Nora, upon |
exiting the school, hugged me so hard that my sunglasses
flew off and I nearly dropped the camera.
Everyone: Is she still talking about her kid going off to school?
Me: ...Yeah. (Sorry.)
Here's the thing. It continues to be a Big All-We-Can-Talk-About Deal around these parts for a few reasons, among them the fact that it is a life-changing event for at least one family member...and it causes copious moments whereupon another family member can walk in and out of houses without carrying multiple people and their belongings. (Leading her to wonder if perhaps she's forgotten pants, or an arm, or if it's actually a major holiday.)
I have friends on both sides of the camp. (Making them...boys and girls, I suppose. Don't boys and girls still have separate sides of camp? Digress.) There are folks for whom preschool, kindergarten, etc., is no big deal. It's a necessary rite of passage, something to prove that you're doing your job as a parent by readying someone for societal function, and you'll see them in a few hours, anyhow. (Which is all true.) On the other hand, others (without kids in daycare and/or with routine grandparent weekends) get super weepy and sad, wondering how- for the very first time since their existence- someone else is the one in charge of this impossibly wonderful and frail little being. (Also true.)
For me, it was this notion that I wouldn't be her eyes and ears (and gently reminded: No, we do not put our nostrils there) for the first time ever. And it made me miss her. And yeah, we chose a terrific school with a Young 3s program and an awesome teacher (and built-in friends by way of happenstance enrollment)...but Nora had been with me almost every single day since birth. She worked with me as a miniature nanny (mani), and evolved into this independent, creative little kid whom I genuinely enjoy spending my days with.
She also happens to be, on occasion, cripplingly shy and cautious.
So then I had this fear that I was sending her off to school for me, to be all Look At How I've Solved My Kid's Issue By Completely Disregarding It. And maybe not quite three IS too young for school. And perhaps if I hadn't even heard of this program and pursued it that same night (having an interview and securing a slot the very next morning), we wouldn't even having this conversation.
Then I started to realize that it was ME who wasn't ready. That it was ME with this idea that, once preschool started, you could never undo going off to school. There would never again be a time where she could just stay home in the mornings and be my baby. She would never again just be my baby.
But then, like all decent parents, I concluded that doing (or preventing) anything because of my needs as opposed to my kid's was a pretty junky way to parent.
So we laid out a ladybug halter top outfit and put Doc Bullfrog in the penguin backpack. Took the required photos on the front porch with each family member, just in case we needed to remember what she looked like between then and 11:30am. Dropped a confused but cheerful Zuzu off with our neighbor (that's right- we have no problem shipping off the younger one, because that's only temporary). And then Peej and I drove her to school. (Oh yes, the guy for whom taking a personal day is a major issue with which to be grappled over the better part of a week- there was no way in hell he was missing dropping off his baby to her first day. Also, the previous night he had Read Articles on preschools and little kids and all sorts of emotional stuff. And so he feeling his own feelings, too.)
And suddenly we were there at her school. She sat in a boat with a book (as you do), and vaguely told us to stay. We reminded her that we had to go get her sister, but we'd be right back. And she was okay with it. Kinda. She made her face of Brave Concern, but went back to her book. Because here's the order of importance in Nora's world: Shyness trumps New Situation. But Rules [try really hard to] trump Shyness. And Books trump both. And so we said goodbye and left. (And then left again, after I went back to nudge P.J. out of the classroom with me.)
There are big, humongous, ugly problems in the world. People have some serious things going on. But, honestly, all of those things seem really far away when you see your little kid peek out at you with her Is This Okay? face. And you want to reassure her that, yes- of course it's okay. But it isn't. Of course it isn't. Because in that moment you want to be with her and she really wants to be with you, but this is one of those Life Lessons where everyone involved has to learn that sometimes things just don't feel nice. As fun and wonderful as school is (and is going to be), the New and Different parts of it don't always feel so nice. And there is literally nothing in the world you can do about it for your kid, short of preventing them from ever experiencing interactions that will cause sadness or pain. Which will a) prove rather impossible, and b) create a socially inept member of society. Like Jack the Ripper, I imagine. No one wants to raise Jack the Ripper.
But I wasn't thinking about all of that as I left Nora's classroom. I was just missing her. And knowing that she was missing me.
A few hours later she was back in our car, regaling us with tales of circle time and holding hands with her friend and everyone using the potty together(?), and I was so proud of my Bitsy kid. Aside from a few stories from her teacher of Nora being occasionally standoffish and having at least one moment of staring out the window with a tear in her eye (owwwwwww), there were glowing reports of excellent listening, fun times, and utter glee on the playground.
Which means it worked. We've actually partially raised a kid who can coexist with others away from the oppressive concern of her parents. Which I'm pretty sure is what this whole "having a child" thing is about.
That, and the tax deduction.