FRIDAY’S POST, A DAY LATE
I’ve been avoiding the topic of sending Lainey to school next year partly because we haven’t really decided what we’re going to do but more so because, when I think of waving to my child every morning and wondering what she’s doing for the seven hours that follow, my chest feels heavy and I start doing that ridiculous thing I do where I imagine life as a movie montage. On Golden Pond is playing while my girl is walking away from me—slow motion, of course, because that’s how it happens in imaginary movie montages. Two skinny braids are woven into her hair and tied with ribbon, and overpowering her tiny frame is a large yellow back pack. She is waving for me to come with her–whispering that she wants me to stay–and I tell her I wish I could. Finally the screen fades as I hold back the tears that I pray she doesn’t see. So yes—I avoid the topic. And yes, I kind of want to slap myself for being so sentimental. But that’s how you end up when you were the kid who asked your dad to put sad music on because you “needed to cry.”
Today we visited kindergarten—in our second baby step (first was kindergarten round-up last month) toward whatever it is we’re going to do next year. Which, right now, looks maybe like real school.
She was nervous on the way there. I could tell because when I looked in the rear view mirror, she was biting her lip and fiddling with the broken elastic part of the car seat cover. She caught my eye and smiled, and I told her how much fun this was going to be—lunch with friends, recess outside, and the best part—bunk bed lofts in the kindergarten classrooms.
I’ve never been so completely aware of the way my daughter’s hand fits in mine than I was today, as we walked across the parking lot together, her grip clearly signaling that she needed to borrow a bit of my confidence. I shared it with her with my smile, a skip in my step and a subtle tightening of my own grip on her sweaty little hand. It’s okay. I’m right here.
Large round visitor stickers indicated the fact that we didn’t really belong at this school and strangely, I found comfort in that. We’re not here yet. I still have time.
They’re little, those kindergarteners. Too small for such a big school if you ask me, and yet I’d suggest you don’t ask me these kinds of things because I’ll throw your question into a movie montage and one piano sonata later, we’ll all be crying.
I recognized two kindergarteners immediately–kids of friends–and they smiled and ran to me, proudly dragging their writing journals with them. I opened a journal. There was a full paragraph of sweet six-year-old penmanship. Capitals and periods and lots of big words in between–things about amphibians and how frogs are cold-blooded and like to swim in water. I read it aloud to Lainey, praised the student and inwardly marveled at how amazing young minds are. But mostly I loved how confident these children were.
She stayed close to me, making sure some part of her body was touching mine at any given moment. She followed my cues, so I made it a point to be happy. Enthusiastic. Relaxed. Peaceful. Open to new experiences.
I watched her absorb every moment, every student, every little event I knew she was storing to discuss later. Things like how the teacher claps a rhythm to get the kids’ attention and how they respond with a respective clap, clap, clapclapclap. Or the impressive school store we passed in the central pod–a hinged board with pockets full of colorful erasers, pencil tops, small toys and treasures. She pretended not to enjoy the way the teacher called students to line up by the color of their shoes, and I pretended not to notice when she smiled at the boy in front of her who bent over and shook his head to make another boy laugh.
On the way to lunch, we stopped to peek in the music room where an older class was rehearsing a song. Lainey and I immediately recognized it as a song we play at home–Katy Perry’s “Firework.” We stood there alone–me and my little girl–as we pressed our faces against the glass door and watched the music teacher guide the crowd of little bodies with sign language motions. We couldn’t see their faces, but we saw their backs, their arms raised and their hands swaying in the air; we heard their voices.
Own the night like the Fourth of July. Show them what you’re worth. Boom, Boom, Boom. Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon.
I felt hot tears brimming, and I quickly wiped them before my girl who needed my confidence looked up to notice.
We ate lunch at a round table with six other kindergarteners. It felt strange and exciting at the same time. Maybe I overcompensated for her uncertainty, making mention of how great every little thing about school is. Like sporks in the cafeteria.
And, funny as it may be, a school carnival today–as if timed by some divine intervention to convince my kid that kindergarten equals festive merriment and pink sugar.
The principal invited us to his office where he told Lainey he’d watch out for her next year. He let her pick out two trinkets from the treasure box and told her “Take two” when she reached in the jar of peppermint sticks. As we walked back to the parking lot, she held my hand with much more ease, her shoulders relaxed, her smile subtle yet present.
I’ve made lists of pros and cons of both public and home schooling. Truthfully, I am an advocate of both and more important, I am an advocate of the fact that–like breast feeding vs. bottle or sleeping alone vs. family bed–there isn’t a wrong answer. My children will learn to fly in whatever environment in which they are placed because we will support them. Of this I am confident. I also remember that we can change our minds, we can reassess, we can listen to all those quiet cues our children send to tell us exactly what they need, and we can respond accordingly. We will make a decision for our children based on what we feel is right for them and for our family, and we will make it work.
Really, I think we’re just feeling very nostalgic right now, and we need to dwell here a little bit. It’s an interesting crossroads as yesterday was Austyn’s last day of high school, and Brandyn’s last day of middle school follows next week. We’re very aware of the growth charts in our home and all the notches that have been filled in–Austyn and Brandyn’s in black marker on the inside of their bedroom doors, Lainey and Nella’s on vinyl banners that hang on their bedroom walls. That’s a lot of notches.
My laid-back husband who doesn’t express emotion much walked into the bedroom this morning, his eyes full of tears. “This is so hard,” he whispered. “I remember Austyn’s first day of kindergarten.” He stopped and looked at the pictures of Lainey on my computer screen. “He was this big,” he added, holding his hand out, mid-thigh. I watched him fold blankets that didn’t need to be folded, giving himself something to do to distract his sadness–so characteristic of him. “I like things the way they are. I want everything to stay the same,” he concluded.
He continued to fold things–anything–and I didn’t say much because I know there’s not much to say. But I wait for it–that moment of truth that I know will arrive because, hey–you can’t be married to a unicorn lover and not eventually see the good.
And it comes. Quietly.
“There’s good ahead,” he whispers.
Growing hurts. I know this well.
New seasons bring new challenges but also new colors, new fruit, new things that fill us with wonder–things we maybe didn’t recognize before.
A little bit sad and a little bit excited tend to compliment each other quite nicely. And that’s exactly where I am right now, on the brink of a good summer with memories to be made.
Friday Photo Dump:
Friday Phone Dump photos are taken on the Instagram iPhone app (free) and dropped into a 12×12 collage using a photo editing software (Photoshop Elements works). I am @etst (enjoying the small things) on Instagram if you care to follow the feed.