We are ten days into Kindergarten. I didn’t tear up on the first day, but I did on the tenth.
My moment of emotion surrounded a plastic container with chilled water and apple slices – otherwise known as our daughter’s contribution to a glorious classroom event called Friendship Salad.
A few days previously our five year old had suggested she was ready to walk unescorted to her classroom. Fair enough. I value independence. So I walked her to the common areas and wistfully watched her bound to her classroom solo.
And then she discovered the car rider line – the beacon of efficiency whereby parents literally pull up to a curb, someone opens the door, and the cherubs jump out, and walk into the school entirely independently.
She LOVES it, it is a highlight of her morning, and motivation to leave on time. This is a good thing.
But, can I be a tad bit sappy, just for a second? Because just like that, I’ve been cut a little bit more out of the morning routine.
I have read those same “helicopter parenting is terrible” articles like you have. Except I may have been a little more prideful (or willing to admit it) that I read them and think “that is so not me.”
And then it’s the morning of Friendship Salad.
Although “we” have recently discovered the car rider line and the joy of new found independence, I thought that maybe I would walk in with her on Friendship Salad day, you know, given the extra heftiness of the apples.
No. She was set to do it herself. She put together a plan and wanted to execute.
I chewed on my tongue. So many what ifs! What if she trips and apples and water splay everywhere, and there she is scraped and bruised, with no mommy there to pick her up, and clean up the apples, and reassure her that all is okay? What if that container precariously tips and the water goes all down her shirt? What if? What if? FRIENDSHIP SALAD DAY AND MY FIVE YEAR OLD IS SERIOUS BUSINESS PEOPLE!
As I went through the scenarios, and approached the turn that would determine whether we were “walkers into the building,” or “car riders dropping off,” I heard my cue. With our daughter’s calm reassurance that she could do this, I heard it. I heard the gentle whisper to back off. I did the risk assessment – nothing in this was breakable – the containers, the apples, even potential bruises and scrapes heal. I could actually do more damage in not letting her carry the fruit in ALL BY HERSELF than if the worst case did happen. IT WAS TIME FOR ME TO SEE THAT MY BELIEF IN HER ABILITIES WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE REALITIES OF MY OWN FEARS.
Gulp. So I dropped her off and just like that. She was heading into the building with her apple cargo, solo. I didn’t get a call or email of any catastrophe occurring in route to friendship salad. The hard truth though – is that part of my job of parenting is giving her the opportunity to have mishaps and recover from them.
So, I drove on to work sniffling and wiping my eyes. I graciously gave myself time to feel the moment and I realized something powerful. It’s not that I don’t want my kids to grow up. I’m a logical person. Them not growing up is illogical. And, let’s be honest. I really enjoy sleep. Nothing in me pines for the baby days. So, what is it that I was feeling?
To my kids: I don’t mind you growing up, please just don’t grow up without me. I simply want to be present and catch as much of it as possible. And the reality is that as you grow older, I will not physically be there as much. Because you know, you like to walk into school by yourself. It is good for both of us for you to do this. But I can be there for you spiritually – and more specifically – prayerfully. For each time I can’t be there, in person, I can be your advocate in prayer.
And, so, I keep telling myself this, and praying on this.
Can somebody please get me a tissue?