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.