Hannah’s post about time passing and feeling aged was, well, timely, because in a few short days, this girl will be going off to kindergarten, and I don’t know how I feel about it.
There she is at ten months, back when school was a distant future thing, like orthodontics and boyfriends and university. But babies refuse to grow as slowly as we’d like and now she’s going on five and September is on our doorstep. Hello.
I can’t say I feel anything that isn’t muddled up with everything else. I’m worried and anxious and excited and proud and curious and full of dread. It’s a considerable bag of feelings, and I’m sure most parents feel these things at some point (or at many points).
I’ve struggled with what to tell her–how much of my anxiety should I show?–and how much detail to give about how her life is about to change. I keep thinking back to my own kindergarten days, as dim as they are, and as influenced by others’ memories and stories as they are. I think I had fun. I think I felt lonely. I think I loved the messy chaos one minute and wanted to break out the next. It was a time of contradictions, as maybe all early childhood is. And I want that for her because it’s normal and important, but I’m also afraid.
It’s about letting go.
How do I watch her make and lose the same friend in one day? How do I explain about people who will hurt her?
How do I let someone else be her teacher? I know I can answer that on the surface: by letting her step into the classroom (there’s a professional kindergarten instructor there!). But it’s really a bottomless question because this is only the first of many steps, the first of many teachers. Her world is about to open up in ways she never imagined and that’s what we want for her, but it’s also making me sad.
This summer we’ve tried to savour everything. I’ve tried to remind myself at random moments that this is it: she’s never going to be this young again (thanks, Hannah!), never going to be this this again. The her-ness she has now is pure, and ours, and in a few months, she’ll be a different girl and it seems to me she’ll be more hers than ours. Which is great and the way it should be and exactly what we’ve been raising her for.
And still, it hurts. Maybe I’m selfish.
Years ago in a writing workshop, a guest speaker told our class (I can’t recall now what the context was) that deciding to have a child is the most selfish act there is. Which seemed a little counterintuitive to me at the time; surely choosing to give away your free time, nights of sleep, possibly your health and a lot of your money and sanity for the good of another person wasn’t a selfish thing? But I realised he was really talking about the decision part (for those times when it is one). The moment you say, this is what I want. I want to do this. I will endeavour to create a person who did not ask to be here.
So, yes. I guess I am selfish. I chose to make her but now I must choose to do another thing: let her go into the world, which is kind of the opposite of selfishness. Funny how life does that.
Here we are, stretching out the last days of summer, the last days of life before an astonishing complexity sets in (when did drop off and pick up and early dismissal and pro-D days get so complicated?). There are still raspberries to pick and evenings by the river, fossil hunting. She is still mostly four. She is still her and we are still us. And whoever we all become over the next few months, the next year, we’ll have to become those people together. Discovery by discovery.
How have you handled the off-to-school part of life? I’d love to know your thoughts.
All I know, Ria, is that time flies by so fast and you can’t hold onto it. My four kids are ranging from 25 to 20 years and I don’t know where any of it went. They experience so many things that you don’t even want them to experience (drugs, alcohol, unsavoury friends) but all you can do is be there for them, guide them, talk to them and let them know that you are always with them. Mine are now looking for career jobs, and boy, is that not fun. What they went to college for, they can’t get jobs in their field yet. It’s a long road for them right now with minimum wage jobs and working in a job they didn’t want to work in. So, all I can say is enjoy each moment with your daughter, savour everything because before you know it she will be looking at which university or college she wants to go to.
Thanks so much for the advice, Anne. It’s so important to get some perspective from those who’ve been through it! I can’t imagine my kids being in their twenties, but at the same time, it will be here in no time. Such a strange way time works. All the best to you and very good luck to your grown-up kids on finding work. I know how hard that is right now. And finding you can’t get a job in the field you chose to study in is really tough–I’ve been there!
Oh that bittersweet heartache! I remember that feeling. You could do what I did – delay her start for two terms while you bend your brain around her growing up and moving out (and away from you) into the world. Then flip out and co-create another human in order to cling on to a baby for longer! I actually completely agree with the selfish call re: having kids. From my experience anyway – it being the only experience I can really know. A Controversial call, perhaps, but I think it’s true and I can own it.
I didn’t know you delayed her by two terms, Hannah. Did it do her good? Was it better for you? With Little e still being four until November, it’s been tough on this mama to make the choice.
I will read this again in about 4 years and know that I’ll find support with you! I think everyday how different he is already. It does fly…and goes so slow at the same time. The next chapter will be an amazing one friend.
Thanks, Christina! I can also live vicariously through you and that wonderful first baby year. 🙂
she is growing up too quickly!