And just like that, I have a child in kindergarten. It’s been coming for five years now, and yet it snuck up on me. I’ve tried to downplay my anxiety as I got String Bean ready these past few weeks: new backpack, new lunch box, new school clothes, a list of menu ideas for her lunches. She was either really good at downplaying her anxiety, or she simply didn’t feel any. She was excited, every time we talked about it, to make new friends, learn new things, experience a new school. Today was the big day. As I got her ready this morning, she was too wrapped up in a game with her sister to care what her lunch box contained (as long as her new princess water bottle was inside), or how I styled her hair, or what shoes she was wearing. She had no questions or concerns at all.
As we walked String Bean to her class, she took in all of the kids and parents around her with cool nonchalance. When her teacher appeared and asked the throng of kids to line up, and was ignored by the lot of them, String Bean stepped right up. She led the way to her new class, her classmates trailing behind her, without the least bit of apprehension. Now, three years ago, this girl’s preschool teacher had to pry her off my arm, leg, or ankle every morning for weeks. And it’s not that I wish she’d been emotional today, I’d much rather watch a confident girl sauntering into class than a sobbing wreck being wrenched from me, it’s just that now I realize how much she’s grown up. She isn’t my scared little girl anymore. She’s her own girl, off on a new adventure, without looking back. Really, the only drama of the morning was Peanut getting upset because she wanted to stay and play with the big kids on the cool new playground.
When we picked String Bean up from school I could tell she was tired, from the triple-digit heat wave with a non-air-conditioned classroom as much as the long day of newness. She smiled and said her day was good, that she played with some new friends, made a necklace (this teacher really knew how to win her over), and enjoyed circle time. She said some kids were sad and missed their mommies, but that she wasn’t sad at all. Her carefully packed lunch was missing exactly one handful of blueberries, so I fed her a late lunch and watched her play with her sister and marveled at how easy this transition was for her.
The thing I marvel at most is that, even though people always tell me how much she looks like me, she’s nothing like me. I was cripplingly shy as a child. I literally never spoke in preschool, saving up an avalanche of words that I dumped on my mom and sister as soon as they picked me up each day. One of my preschool teachers actually asked my mom to record my voice for her, because she wondered what it sounded like. I remember kindergarten as a terrifying onslaught of bossy girls and aggressive boys that I had to navigate to keep up my comfortable silence. I remember being kept after school so the kindergarten teacher could try to finagle me out of my tight shell. I remember being stressed and anxious and watching the clock until the day was over. I also remember finally starting to talk, making friends, and getting to the point where I actually looked forward to school. But that took a while. I’m glad that String Bean doesn’t have any of that timidity.
I know the year is young and there’s plenty of time for setbacks, but I also know that the tearful, clingy child she once was is gone. Now she’s the cool big sister, with the big girl school and new habit of rolling her eyes and saying “Mooooommmm!” when I embarrass her by acting like I care too much. She’s still plenty cuddly, wanting me to lay in bed with her each night telling her stories as she winds down for sleep, but that’s different than trying to kiss her goodbye while she’s in line for class.
Onward, little one. You make me proud. Enjoy the adventure.