Monday, September 12, 2011
I was kidding myself thinking this wasn't a big deal.
Not that I wasn't excited for her, and not that I didn't do a zillion things in preparation for this morning (more on that later), but I quite successfully ignored that pit in my stomach warning me that this was a big deal. It's enormity smacked me in the face this morning as I found myself crying, standing outside a classroom door, listening to my little one sobbing on the other side. SOBBING. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start this story last night, where I found myself on the couch watching the finale of True Blood while sewing a bunch of felt hearts.
I got the idea last week that it would be nice to send Alyce to her first day of Kindergarten with some extra love in the form of tiny felt hearts, and of course I didn't start this ambitious project until last night after nine. I might have started around eight, but instead I spent an hour puttering in the kitchen packing Alyce's lunch and snacks for today. Should it take a person one hour to make a three-year-old's lunch? Probably not. But should I send strawberries or melon, or both? And will she be able to open her new sandwich box all on her own? And is turkey and applesauce and a muffin really enough for snack? I know what you're thinking: snap out of it. But last night all these decisions felt huge. I made her a packed lunch for years at daycare, but something about the big-kid lunch at Kindergarten sent me over the edge. B when it was finally time to make the hearts I was comforted by the knowledge that both Eric and Alcide would be on television with her for an entire hour. It helped. I couldn't wait to give them to her in the morning. My big girl was going to school!
We've been talking a lot about school over the past few weeks, and last week she met her teacher. We got the backpack, the lunch bag, the new shoes, some new clothes. We were set. So it was no surprise that she woke up a little excited this morning. I was excited right along with her. I excitedly gave Alyce her new hearts, sewn with love by the woman who gave birth to her, and after a quick glance she threw them on the floor. Instead she wanted to make pancakes.
I got over it. I made pancakes.
We had a lot of time at home before school this morning (as happens when you start the day on the wrong side of six), and we coasted along as usual: breakfast, getting dressed, some Dora with her sister. A few different times she would get quiet and tell me that she didn't want to go to school, but the rest of the time she was her usual bouncing-through-the-house self, declaring that she would a great student. Again, I should have sensed that it was coming. I should have known that the bounce in her step was just buying some extra time before her realization (and mine) that school was really happening, that it was no longer just talk. Sometimes we can be so silly.
All morning I kept asking her if she wanted to keep one of the hearts in her pocket. That way you can keep it close, I said, and know that Mama is thinking about you. And every time she just shook her head. Eventually she agreed that she'd keep them in her backpack, just in case she needed them. She might have even rolled her eyes. We said good-bye to Papa and Shira and headed out the door. Walking from the car to her classroom door I couldn't stop smiling at how ridiculous she looked with her big backpack. How could this tiny creature of mine be ready for school? Wasn't she just living inside my uterus? There just has to be more time between uterus and Kindergarten, right? I could feel the collective shock of mothers and fathers all around me, as we all quieted down long enough, above the background noise of new clothes and new friends, to realize that our little ones were about to take a really big step all on their own.
That's when it started. Alyce's excitement turned to holding my hand, which turned to wrapping her little arms around my neck, which is when the tears began. The school bell rang and her teacher called them all into class, just the kids, not the parents. In a panic Alyce started pulling at the zipper on her backpack, twisting her arms around trying to get it off her back. And then I realized. She wanted her hearts. Maybe I just need one in my pocket, she said. She chose a tiny purple heart, put her backpack back on, and started sobbing. SOBBING. All the other kids were in the classroom now, everyone but my Alyce. Her teacher came over and told Alyce softly that it was time to go. Alyce continued to cry, and it wasn't that annoying whiny-cry that kids do when they aren't getting their way. She was doing the ugly-cry, the one that comes from a deeper place. Her teacher took her hand out of mine and led Alyce inside. She'll be alright, Danielle, she said. And I knew she would be, but at that moment my heart broke for Alyce. No matter how much fun she'll have today, and no matter how excited I am for her, that sadness was real. And no matter what I do, I can't protect her from those feelings. Fortunately, there will be other feelings today, too.
Maybe I knew all along that today was going to be big, and that she'd need those little hearts.