She is four years and 364 days old and she is spinning away from me like a leaf on the breeze.
Her hand held clutched firm in my grip, she is oblivious to my faith that if I just hold on tight enough I might stop time altogether.
“You’re hurting me, Mom.”
She tugs me, with 40 pounds of determined anticipation, toward the doors of the elementary school.
Passages. She approaches these doors – these literal rites of passage – to her kindergarten visit with delight and anticipation; I approach them with my stomach in knots.
Somehow, this seemed easier with her older brother last year. I was mildly choked up, but nothing like this.
Perhaps I could hand over my eldest child to be swallowed by public schooling because I had my “baby” back at home? Now, older and wiser and with no small children waiting in the wings to distract me, I understand utterly what it is to have children grow up on you.
It is a stab to the heart – with a sharpened No. 2 pencil.
More preschool? Perhaps she is too young for kindergarten? Perhaps another year of preschool (and pal-ling around with mommy every afternoon) is the way to go?
Except that this child of my heart, who has recited her ABCs and 1-2-3s for over a year now, is oh so ready. Not to mention willing, and waiting.
Waiting in particular right now, clearly wondering why mommy is being so silly – and slow!
New shoes. My daughter – she of the emerald green eyes, baby fine blonde hair, and exactly six little freckles across the bridge of her nose – has her new sparkly white shoes, clean socks neatly rolled at the ankles, two bright red hair ribbons, and her lunch money carefully tucked into her pocket.
She is quivering with excitement, thrilled to gain entry to the “real school” that has seduced her for a year.
We have counted “how many days until I go to kindergarten mommy?” each day as her brother saunters through these same doors. To her, the answer has for too long been too many. To me, the answer is, as always, too few.
Reluctance. Reluctantly, I allow myself to be pulled into the school. I offer her particulars to the person in charge of processing my child from babyhood to “big girl” status.
Don’t they realize what a monumental occasion this is? I offer them her name, age, and date of birth – clearly, she’s really just a baby. Let’s just go home right now.
But “oh, she’s 5 tomorrow!” the aide happily notes; and, to my daughter, “such a big girl you are now!” Why do they let troublemakers like this into school?
At that moment, with the spearing of the pin of a plastic name tag through the lapel of her cardigan, my baby is a future student. Signed, sealed, and soon to be delivered into her life as a newly minted “big kid.”
She’ll be fine. Moments later, at a classroom door, a kindly kindergarten teacher will attempt (and fail) to reassure me as my daughter wrenches her hand from my grip and scampers to story corner without even a backward glance.
“She’ll be fine” says the teacher, meaning well. “She won’t even know that you’ve gone.”
And that, of course, as the door closes gently, but firmly, on my soon-to-be-kindergartner – and her babyhood – is exactly what I’m afraid of.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt still has the whole summer to pretend her baby is still a baby. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)