In five short days I’ll be dropping my “four-and-three-quarters”-year-old off at elementary school for her first day of Kindergarten. It’s all come so quickly. Somehow it feels like she’s been a part of our life for always, and simultaneously like we’ve just brought her home from the hospital yesterday. With all these emotions and potentials for what the future will bring and what the past holds steady, not allowing us to bring forward any longer, I’ve been absent from blogging. I’ve been absent from photography (I still haven’t completed editing the pictures from our Panama trip 6 months ago). What I’ve been trying to do is to make the end of an era last as long and delve as deep as I can. The era of our days together, this small and wonderful child and me.
For nearly 5 years now we’ve been by each other’s sides, almost every minute of every day. There have been several sleepovers at Gramma and Grampa’s, and some days spent swapping childcare with friends, but the rest has been us. Just us.
As the first day of school draws closer, I’m reminded how much I don’t want to let go. How much I worry about all the things she’s going to experience without me. I worry that my ultimately slow eater won’t spend enough time eating to keep her operating at a positive level. I worry what she’ll say to her class and her teacher that will bring to light the imperfection of our home life and of me. I worry she’ll hurt herself, or someone else. I worry about riffs with friends, unkind acts both toward her and from her, learning more about the parts of the world we’ve tried to keep her blind to that I’m sure some of her classmates will be all too happy to share.
And at the same time I know this is the right step for us. I know that never getting the chance to be her own person away from me will not let her grow in all the ways that need to happen. I know that too much time spent together with anyone leads to bickering and frustration and the need for space. I know that we both need the chance to improve ourselves on our own, to seek out and experience the pieces of life that are important to personal growth and enjoyment of life.
And I know that all the experiences that are coming for this little girl are her right to know, both positive and negative. It is her right to experience all of these things, to get to know the world as it really is, even if it hurts us both when the next lesson learned is a painful one. If we catch them every time the fall, so that pain is never known, they can never learn to appreciate the joys and how to best avoid the suffering.
So, here I sit. Mourning the loss of the past – of the baby I’ll never rock to sleep again, the toddler I’ll never get to play with at StrongStart or sing with at Mother Goose, the preschooler who won’t be playing “big sister” to the younger children in my care – and looking forward to the future for all that it brings. Good or bad.
Because we are our own people. Because our bond won’t disappear with days spent apart. Because the good never seems as good without the bad.
Because time never stops, and change is not only inevitable, but healthy. Our relationship is about to become deeper in a new way.
Here’s to the next phase, parents. It’s all going to be just fine.