Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Bye, Mama!

So, we made it.  Or, I made it.  I knew she was going to be fine.  After what seemed like the most hectic morning of my life, I dropped Emmie off for her first day of kindergarten.

Even though she had a very tough time falling asleep last night, Emmie still bounched out of bed excited for her first day.  I couldn't sleep either, so I this morning I felt like I had one too many glasses of wine last night.  Which, in retrospect, might have been a better idea than staying up 'till all hours and cutting vegetables into flowers.

Drop off was buzzing with excited parents and kids.  We were handed a poem, but warned that if we read it we would cry.  The school secretary was strolling through the crowd with a box of Kleenex. It was all sort of surreal.  Emmie had her little entourage of Rosie and Frannie there to see her off.  And, then of course, me.  I was trying to stay calm watching Emmie while keeping the younger two from beating each other up in front of their future principal.  At the same time I was unsuccessfully trying to snap pictures in this huge throng of people.  As the final lineup began to walk into K2, I decided it might be better to record some video.

The kids started to move in line and walk into school for the first time ever.  In a moment that couldn't have been more perfect to a parents' heart if it had been scripted, Emmie turned around, smiled a huge smile, waved, and said, "Bye, Mama!"  I was looking at her, and not noticing all the chaos and waving and tears and parents calling names around me.  I also didn't notice that in my hand-trembling nervousness, I had not actually hit the record button on my phone.

Her little owl backpack went through the doorway and out of sight.  It was then that I looked down at my phone and realized that I hadn't recorded anything at all.  I stood tapping the screen wildly, trying to conjure something that wasn't there.  That's when I needed the secretary with the roving box of tissues.

How incompetent could I be?  How would I relive that perfect moment without having it on my phone stored with so many less important ones?  The one with Rosie's "raising the roof" dance in the back seat of my car.  The one with Frannie chewing on her fingers until she chokes. The one where Emmie is snorkeling and all you can see is the back of her.  But then I did.  I relived it over and over again.  As we sat through the parent welcome coffee, the principal's voice faded in and out while I kept picturing it.  Emmie is so independent and confident that I thought I might not even get a glance from her as she left me.  But she did.  Smiling and happy and waving and saying goodbye to me.  It was like she knew I needed that.

In some way, I wonder if it's better.  Better that this moment between her and me will always be just that.  A moment between her and I.  Like a zillion other moments that just happen between a parent and their child.  Not documented, not shared on Facebook, not on YouTube or a blog.  Just something special that I will never forget.  And after a pep talk from my own mother, I got an email from Patrick saying one of the most useful things he's ever said: "The important thing is that you were there for her, at her big moment. She won't remember the details, but I'm sure that you will, forever."  And he's absolutely right.

Emmie had a wonderful, exciting, perfect first day of school.  She loved every minute of it.  And it ended just as I dreamed it would.  And this time, I hit the right button.

Monday, September 14, 2015

School Days

It's midnight and I'm standing here over a pile of little flower-shaped cucumbers and it's hitting me.  My first baby is really starting school tomorrow.  Real school.  A school with a cafeteria and a gym and big kids.  Sure, she went to pre-K last year, but she was basically in one little space and the pre-K students WERE the big kids.  This feels so different.

It's hard to believe that this little girl who I traveled to the other side of the world for, who I dreamed about forever, is going to school.  I'm going to drop her off, and trust her with people who are nearly strangers.  And, it doesn't even really matter how our kids come to us...through adoption or biology or anything in between.  From years of planning and contemplation or one quick moment of indiscretion.  From as far away as China or as close as our own womb.  No matter what, they are the most important things in our lives and it is so hard and scary and sometimes a little sad to watch them grow up.

But it's also easy and uplifting and happy.  Easy because they grow up anyways!  No matter what you do or how much you want them to stay little, they WILL GROW UP.  And, truthfully, I've always said that I'm not one to wish that my kids would stay little forever.  Sure, I'll miss all of the moments of their baby and toddler and pre-school days, but I want to embrace every new stage that we enter.  This is a new stage that is so full of opportunities and growth and excitement, and I don't want tears in my eyes to make me miss a single moment.

Emmie's excitement about school is contagious.  For weeks she's told everyone from the cashier at Market Basket to every neighbor walking by our house that she would be going to kindergarten soon. When I tucked her in tonight, she was absolutely beaming at the thought that her first day of school was finally arriving.  An hour later she got out of bed and came down to the kitchen and said, "When is it going to be morning?!"  She's never done that before.  She's more excited than Christmas Eve.

As our first daughter, Emmie's the one who started us on this chapter of our lives.  Down the path of parenthood.  And as we watch her grow...as we watch all of our kids grow...it really reminds us of what is important in life.  I said to Patrick the other day as we were talking about school starting, "You know, it's like that stupid, sappy song that I hate says...'the children are our future'.  But seriously, they are!"  It's like it's dawning on me even more now.  We are shaping these little people through our family and our community to be the future.  And that is big.  Bigger than anything else I've ever done, anyways.  And as I sit with nervous new kindergarten parents in orientation, or wander around Target with 100 other families with their school supply lists, or crowd into the shoe department looking for new sneakers for school, I feel like I am really a part of something important and special.  Probably not something I thought more than a minute about before we were blessed with our three girls.  But now I know it's the greatest thing I've ever done with my life.

Last week all ready for kindergarten orientation day!

So, on this eve of the first day of kindergarten, I'm feeling a little wistful.  But, like Emmie, I can't wait for the morning to be here so I can braid her beautiful hair, put her in her new dress, and send her off with her little flower-shaped cucumbers and a hand-written heart-shaped note tucked into her lunch box telling her how proud I am of her and how much I love her. Then, rather than spending the day feeling sad that my little girl is growing up, I'll rejoice and be thankful that I am the lucky mom who gets to be a part of it, and who's arms she'll run into when the day is done.