Our goal as parents is to teach our kids to be independent souls. As the years go by, we watch them become more and more able. My college roommate’s son just started driving. My other friend’s kid just went on her first date. I watched Maisie take her first stab at independence last week: she started school on Friday. Sure, it’s just nursery school and, yes, it was just for an hour, but it was still school.
For weeks, we’ve been reading books and watching videos about school. I’ve bought her toys about the topic and we talk about it incessantly. Okay, I talk and she garbles something back.
Truth is, she was supposed to start Thursday, but a bad cold changed the game plan. It wasn’t so much that she was sick, but rather she couldn’t seem to roll with the punches. Since she snubbed her favorite lunch, I gave her a cereal bar that promptly broke in half. Dear God, you would have thought somebody shot her best friend. She screamed, “Fix! Fix!” and when I gently explained I couldn’t fix it, she freaked. I mean we’re talking full-on tantrum. Holy cow. She’s had so few, but this was a doozy. Wow.
Unfazed, I strapped her and her brother into the stroller and headed like a frantic woman down the street. Maisie, sporting a new dress and a bow in her hair, was wailing the whole time. About half way there, I looked at my screaming kid—the kid who never screams. My heart melted. She was so sad, obviously no way to start school. Home we went for some cuddling. School could wait.
With a dry run out of the way, the next day was a snap. She woke up cheerful from her nap, ate lunch and donned her same duds without incident. We were off.
We arrived a bit early. It was quiet there outside the school’s double doors. So there we sat quietly enjoying our little moment together when, suddenly, we were swarmed with other two-year-olds and their parents armed with cameras for those first-day shots. We all glanced at each other with knowing looks.
Maisie ran around, screaming like a banshee, chasing the other kids. While we waited, she climbed every bench and played with every kid, clearly having the time of her life. I wasn’t sure she’d have any energy left for school.
Finally, the big double doors opened and it was time to go inside. I took her tiny hand in mine as we walked up the steps. We got to the classroom— a room we’d visited earlier in the week—and then it happened: she pulled that little hand away and ran inside. Off she bolted, never looking back. I smiled and welled up in tears at the same time. Just like that, my little girl had taken a giant step towards growing up.
Most weeks, I try to write about something cool to do or impart some little tiny bit of knowledge you might be able to use. This week, I simply want to remind you how fast it goes. Hold that little hand while you can—even when it’s not so little any more.