This summer while we were watching the women’s Olympic gymnastics, Sydney said with a furrowed little brow, “Mom, I don’t think those girls have mommies and daddies.” I guess she was envisioning this as some sad show of orphaned girls performing for audiences. I asked her why she thought they didn’t have parents and she replied, “Because they aren’t there! I don’t see them anywhere!” For Sydney’s first 5 ½ years, her reality was that Mom or Dad was always there. Yes, she went to pre-school two, then three times a week and we left her with Grandma or a babysitter from time to time, but her main reality was our presence. Last spring, she didn’t like ballet because she went into the studio alone, behind closed doors. She said she just wanted to be with her family. So, with starting kindergarten this week, even though it’s only 3 hours a day, her world has shifted to one more like those gymnasts; mommy and daddy aren’t quite as visibly present.
On the big day, she was dressed and ready to go, backpack on, by 8:30, even though we didn’t need to leave until 12:30 or so. Luckily, our good friends came over with first day of school treats for the kids and they had new school supplies, big fun cones and treats to distract them for a few hours.
We were able to walk to school together the first day, just the two of us, and the teacher was kind enough to have parents stay for that first short day. As we walked along hand-in-hand, her little grip getting tighter and tighter as we neared the building, I told her that part of the reason I make her a first day of school dress is so if she feels a little bit scared or sad, she can look down at her dress and remember how much her mommy loves her. She brought our hands to her cheek and said, “awh. Mom, you’re going to make me cry.” Of course, I barely made it through that sentence without my own voice cracking.
A few minutes later, we ran into her little buddy on the walking path beside the school and they literally ran into each other’s arms, backpacks flying behind them and I finally got a first day of school picture with her big, real smile. After that she was fine, even when the parents all went into a different room for info and she played sorting games. (I could write a whole other essay about how much I love her teacher, especially because she answered every little question that had been rolling around in my head, without me ever having to ask and she coached us all on getting through the first drop off. But I’ll save my love note to Mrs. B. for another day.)
We walked home hand in hand again, but she was so excited that as we neared home, she took off running and flying her arms ahead of me. That’s the picture I want to keep in my mind about her first day of school. Her gleefully letting go of my hand and trying to fly.