Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A rough first day

She didn’t cry. She didn’t fuss. Heck, she didn’t even hesitate. In fact, she moved us out of her way so she could get into the school. That’s my 26-month-old, Pickle, who, apparently, had been waiting for this moment all her life.

At least that’s what it seemed to us as she charged into her first day of school, with her first-time-ever pigtails(!!!) and a conviction that began with her announcement that came right after she was dressed but before anyone else was: “Time to go, guys!”

Granted, it’s not school-school; it’s just preschool. And she’s only there two mornings a week. Plus, at that age, it’s more a glorified playdate (with rules) for a few hours in the morning before I get her just in time for nap, so it’s not like it’s a real school. 

But what’s real is the silence in our house. And the ability for me to work in any corner with no little hands pawing at my keyboard, wanting to press a key for “one yast time”. Not to mention this pang that I tried to ignore earlier. My head appreciates the space for all the thinking (and sometimes dreaming) it needs to be doing in the hours my little ones are away, but my heart, well, is not loving it. 

It’s not even a day, and I already miss my summer with the girls. Because, really, What. A. Summer.

Sure, it was hectic for a bit, having to juggle multiple projects and two girls, but with carefully planned summer day camps for four-year-old Little Miss, and a regular sitter twice a week for the two-year-old, we were able to savor the season’s best - trips to the beach, numerous playgrounds and museums around the city, a vacation in the mountains, and countless play dates in the sun - the rest of the time.

In fact, after our trip to the Smokies, I had exactly one week before the girls started school, and thankfully, the weather cooperated, so I took a break from work and crammed in as much sunshine and water on our skin as possible, perhaps hoping it would continue to nourish us throughout the coming winter months (*shudder* I can’t believe I just said the “w” word.)

The last week was summer on crack as we ventured into different parts of the city to experience water in different ways - pool, splash grounds, beach, you name it, we probably did it. By the end of the week - as in the night before school started - I was catatonic. Holy shit we did a lot.

Now, with the first day in the bag, we’re going to have to slowly re-adapt to this new-old rhythm of balancing work, school, and everything else life tosses our way again. Unsurprisingly, both girls had a successful first day.

Little Miss is a veteran preschooler now, but without her BFFs, who had moved on to Kindergarten this year, her mission is to find a new best friend who shares her passion for pink and princesses, which, fingers crossed, seems to be waning as more colors and superheroes start to make appearances in her tiny realm - by her own volition, nonetheless.  
Perhaps she’s on her way to a better, more exciting phase. She did say she’d like to be a princess superhero like Wonder Woman the other day, though - See? There’s hope right?
As for my little Pickle Who Could and Totally Did - wow! I did not see it coming at all. 
We tried to prepare her the weekend before school started, but we didn’t think she absorbed and understood: “We’re going to drop you off at your sister’s school, and you’re going to stay there, okay? And you’re going to have new friends, a new teacher, and it’s going to be so fun!”
“Otay,” she responded, but we didn’t put too much stock in her response. She’s two; it had to be too much for her to process. 
What we didn’t remember was all those times she went into her sister’s school with me during dropoff and pickup, where she would interact with kids her size and enjoy the attention of the teachers who were always so sweet and welcoming to her.

I think she remembered though. Because when I walked in at lunchtime today to my little girl who sat quietly at the pint-sized dining table with her peers, she looked like a preschool pro.

I saw her reach for a regular glass of milk (not plastic, and certainly not a sippy), carefully empty the content into her mouth, and gingerly place it next to her empty plate. Sandwich, pickle, carrots - all gone. And she doesn’t even like carrots and pickles!

When she saw me, she grinned, but she didn’t immediately rush over to me. She listened to her teacher, who instructed her to discard her paper plate, before bounding towards me to give me the biggest, warmest hug - the one that I missed from the morning, when she was too busy letting go to notice my desperate need for one last hug goodbye before leaving my side for the first time.

I fought back tears in the morning, because, really, it was just silly. She’s in preschool just two mornings a week, for heaven’s sake. Get yourself together, woman. And I fought my tears again when I held her on our way home, so, so happy to have my baby in my arms again, even though she would firmly say, “Me not a baby anymore!”

She has uttered that protest many times before. But it wasn’t until her first day in preschool that it finally, painfully hit me: she’s right. She has certainly proven that.

I peppered her face with little kisses on our walk home, glad to have my little sidekick with me again. Perhaps sensing my relief from an easy first day, mixed with the little sadness from a milestone that only means to draw her further and further away from me, Pickle, who's often sensitive to the feelings of those around her, cupped my face tenderly and said, “Me yuv my mommy,” and planted the softest, sweetest kiss on my cheek. One that reached straight to my heart.

Of all the things that surprised me about this kid that day, this was certainly not one of them.

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What was your kid's first day like? What milestone surprised you the most? Which milestone did/do you most dread?