Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Letting Go

She is wearing her new dress, with the little sunflowers on it. She smiles when I put her new black shoes on... "like a big girl, right?" she says. "Yes," I answer, "like a big girl."

It is the first day of preschool. We walk in, hand in hand, her pink backpack bouncing on her back. Her other arm wrapped tightly around my leg. "Don't worry," I say, "you'll have fun. It's okay to be a little nervous, but you'll make new friends, and your teacher is very nice."

She is silent, her eyes wide. We walk into her classroom, and her teacher smiles and kneels down to her level. "Hi Greta," she says gently, "welcome to Preschool."

Greta clutches my hand tighter and buries her face in my shirt. The teacher reaches out her hand. "Come with me, I'll show you your new cubby," she says.

Greta is three and a half, her tiny ponytails shining, adorned with little bows she picked out herself. She couldn't wait for this day, talked about it non-stop. Until the day came, and now she is scared.

I promise myself that if she doesn't want to go, I won't make her. "Come see!" the teacher says cheerfully, still holding out her hand. "Your cubby has your name on it and everything - we're so excited you're here!"

Greta hesitates, and looks up at me - her eyes are huge. I'm frozen, conflicted. I want to swoop her up in my arms and run out the door. I want to stop time, keep her little. I want her to be brave. I don't want her to be brave. I make a little bet with myself: if she doesn't reach for the teacher's hand I'll take her home and we'll try again another day.

"Momma?" she whispers. I bend down.

"Yes, sweetheart?"

"You'll pick me up after rest time, right?" she nods bravely.

I smile, my heart breaking a little. "Yes, honey, when you wake up, I'll be here."

"Okay, Momma. Bye. I love you." She kisses my cheek, turns, and reaches for the teacher's hand.


The school hallway is noisy, bustling - full of kids, parents and teachers coming for the 1st grade open house. "C'mon, Mom!" Greta is impatient, pulling me by the hand. "I want to see my friends!" She is dragging me down the hall.

A squeal as she runs into a friend from her class last year. They hug and jump up and down. "Look, Mom!" Greta says. "That's the cafeteria, where I'll eat lunch every day! I can buy it if I want to, or bring my own lunch!" Her eyes are shining as she tugs me along. "And here is the auditorium, where we put on plays and see movies. And THAT was were I went to Kindergarten, down that hall. But I'm in FIRST GRADE now, so I don't go there anymore."

We find her classroom, the last one on the left. She hesitates for a moment, then finds her seat with her name tag on it. She sits right down, looking around expectantly.

"It's just a visit today," I begin, "tomorrow you'll -"

"MOM! I KNOW!" she says, rolling her eyes.

Another squeal - it is another friend from her class last year, they will be sitting right next to each other the whole year. "MOM!" she shouts. "Come see!" She rushes out into the hall, and points. "This is my locker!"

I stare, agape, at the big red metal locker with her name on it. A real, honest-to-goodness locker.

A big kid's locker.

She is running up to friends, hugging and chatting. I stand helplessly in the hall, until I catch the eye of a friend, and we chat for a bit. I look around for Greta - she is standing with a gaggle of girls, laughing.

"Ready to go, honey?" I ask. She peels away from her friends, and I reach for her hand as we make our way back to the car. She pulls it away and looks around self-consciously.

"Are you nervous about the first day of school tomorrow?" I ask in the car, berating myself a little, because I kind of want her to say yes.

"Nope," she answers without hesitation. "This is gonna be COOL!"


  1. My son is two, with an August birthday, so 4 years away from starting school, and I'm still already starting to get all choked up at the idea of my baby starting school! 4 years from now! Your daughter is beautiful and she will do great. As will you.

  2. I was thinking a lot of similar thoughts this morning when my "little" girl got on the bus to middle school. I vividly remember our first day in preschool and how proud/scared I was to let her go. I feel a lot of the same things today. Greta is adorable and time passes so quickly!

  3. The scariest thing by far, for me, is seeing the little girl whose diapers I changed, the small child whose tears I wiped away and nursed through any number of emotional upheavals and cheered on through countless minor triumphs, and knowing that she is almost a teenager and that that means she's likely to start her period soon, not to mention the dreaded S-E-X >_<

  4. A favorite blogger of mine recently posted that parenting is F***ed (pardon the language, it wasn't mine). You spend hours and hours of back- and heart-breaking effort getting them to be independent human beings, and then the little wretches ACTUALLY GO OFF AND BE INDEPENDENT.

    My "baby" started first grade two weeks ago.

  5. My son is so independent already and he's only four..it breaks my heart but makes me proud too

  6. It't things like this that help me remember that all the first experiences in my life, no matter how old I get, are survivable and at some point, many of them enjoyable! In a few weeks I'll be going to my first AA Area meeting. So out of my comfort zone. I really want someone to hold my hand. So I volunteered to help out at the registration table. That way I get to meet people instead of being worried that I will be standing alone in a corner. Sometimes I still feel like such a little girl.