It’s the night before your first day of kindergarten. Tonight, as I tucked you in, you wanted to talk about how you didn’t want to go to kindergarten. The only thing you liked about kindergarten, you said, was the outside playground part. And that you got to pick your own lunch (peanuts, pasta wheels with feta, dried cranberries, homemade chocolate chip cookie, apple juice). And that you get to see Kaiden every day. Those are some of the familiar things.
We’ve been trying to get you ready for kindergarten, of course. All summer we’ve been playing at the playground, so you know that “park” really well. You saw your classroom and met your teacher last night at the open house. It’s got a lot of low tables, and tiny chairs, and white wooden cubbies, and a round bench, and a couch, and a piano, and so many new books within arm’s reach, and a view of Puget Sound. We’ve read books about kindergarten, and we’ve talked about some of the new things you’ll learn, like counting money, and new songs, and reading books without someone having read them to you first.
And still, there are traces of fear amid the traces of excitement. Dad and I have been trying to explain to you that our brains don’t like new things at first, and that’s what your brain has been doing: it’s resisting the new. So you won’t know what you like about kindergarten until you get there. We won’t really know, either. I kind of hate that.
But it’s hard to explain ambiguity and ambivalence to you at five, because at thirty-six, I’ve been feeling this way, too. I’m excited for you and scared for you, even though I know you will be fine. You’ve been practicing the monkey bars, challenging yourself to hold on just a little longer, or drop down all by yourself, or making it all the way around from one end to the other. You’ve been wanting new games to play on the computer. The crafts that you usually love (drawing, paper cutting, gluing) are getting old. Even daycare, which you’ve loved for several years, is getting stale. That’s how we know that you are ready, have been ready for a new school.
I’ve been wondering if I will cry when we drop you off tomorrow. And you might know this about me already: I hate crying. I’ve heard all these stories of moms crying on their kids’ first day of kindergarten and I’ve wanted to resist. Why? I don’t know. Maybe I don’t like the idea of crying just because I’ve been told that it’s a moment to cry. The PTA may even plan a coffee-and-kleenex moment.
I’m so happy that you are ready for kindergarten, that we are sending this confident, sweet, giving little girl out into the world for school. You draw pictures with captions for your family and friends. You run to pick up your little sister when she falls down and cries. You like doing “strong things,” whether it’s climbing a rope ladder, mixing a huge bowl of cake batter, picking up your little sister for a twirly hug, or trying to outrun your dad at the track. You’re picking up new facial expressions every week, it seems: this week you’re holding up your hands palms-up, looking up at the ceiling, shaking your head and smiling bemusedly. You think hard about what should and shouldn’t happen in a book or a movie, and you still ask questions about characters’ motivations and actions. “What is it with him?” you like to ask, as the bad guy throws a temper tantrum or makes somebody else sad. You think it’s cute that Yoda has a light saber, and you picked out your first graphic novel, a Star Wars one, at the bookstore. This morning at breakfast you were preparing your little sister, telling her that you were going to go to kindergarten tomorrow, and you didn’t want her to be too sad. You and your sister are amazing, and you still make us laugh every single day.
Now, the script for mommies crying on the first day of kindergarten goes something like this: “She’s growing up! It goes so fast!” And you are, and it does. (And I don’t mean to offend any mommies who do cry for these reasons.)
But here’s why I don’t want to cry: I don’t want to stop you. I am so glad that you are growing up to be who you are.
I wanted to resist crying when I married your dad, too. But I was so happy that day, I was going to burst if something didn’t release. And I still hate crying, even though I’ve now cried out of joy more times than I can count, since you were born. “It’s a girl,” your dad whispered to me in the delivery room. “We have a little girl.”
Oh. Maybe that’s why it’ll happen tomorrow.