She’s living her childhood dream. I can still hear her squeaky little 3-year-old voice saying, “I do! I do! I do!” It’s been her mantra really over the years. And, now, it’s her turn. She’s finally part of the club whose membership card is a backpack. She’s a school girl.
While her brothers and sister are way past the honeymoon phase, she’s still got hearts in her eyes and butterflies of excitement about the new career before her. It’s good. We all know the “Hello Neighbor” song, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is dinner conversation, and the Promethean Board is mind boggling.
While she’s in Mrs. Nowak’s class, her mommy and daddy have been doing their own studying. We’ve been learning a few things ourselves. She still needs us; she still needs me, maybe even more now than just a few weeks ago when kindergarten was still a dream and we were always within reach of each other.
All kids have questions before their first day of school. But, her questions weren’t about snack time, recess, or homework.
Mommy, are you going to miss me when I’m in school?
Oh, yes, my dear. I’m going to miss you so so much.
Are you going to cry a thousand tears?
I might just cry a thousand tears until you come home then I’ll be so happy again.
She giggled, content with the thought of leaving me brokenhearted without her. And, I’m okay with that because she should know she’s worth that, that she’s so special, so significant, so desirable and so beloved that she’s worth crying a thousand tears just because she’s not in my sight and by my side.
Everyday I stand at the busy stop and wait with her with my China Starbucks mug in hand. We chat while we wait about the old man wearing pajama pants walking down the street with a newspaper every morning, the ladybug she spotted on the ground, or the truck passing by whose engine is too loud. My feet stay planted on that corner until the bus full of little people barely tall enough to see out the windows is out of sight. She watches me watching her and waves back with a quiet confidence in her eyes as she leaves me rather than the other way around.
When her day is over and that bus brings her back, there I stand, waiting, as if that’s all I’ve done since she left me hours earlier. And, then she welcomes me into her new world, telling me all about her friends and her teacher with a sense of pride over her new independence, an independence she wants me to share. I make listening noises and ask follow-up questions, explaining how I wish I could have seen that video or that new book and how I can’t wait to meet that new friend maybe one day. I take the open door and enter in.
When she’s all done (at least for now), she takes a deep breath as if her next move will be loosening her neck tie after a long hard day of work. And then she comes back into our world, the world where she doesn’t need to know what sound W makes, where she can be dependent again, where I’m her mommy and she’s my baby, where she can drink out of a bottle without any judgment and act the age she feels instead of the age she is.
We worked hard to give her that world and keep her close, knowing that it was the best way to love her for now and love her forward, the best way to prepare her for her forever. For now, we’ll just live right where we are, in two worlds where little girls can be babies and backpack-carrying school girls with mommies who wait at a bus stop all day long with tissues to dry tears…and Starbucks in hand.