Well I wasn’t so sure we’d make it to this point. When you have a tiny colicky baby who doesn’t sleep, the thought that someday she’d have spindly legs and her own signature and start kindergarten seemed a little like heaven. Hard to wrap your head around, but a good thing to aim for nonetheless.
So why do I feel the need to cry my eyes out and beg her to cuddle on the couch for just a little longer? There are a few reasons.
Regret. I wish I had enjoyed things more, appreciated the fleeting nature of infancy, and given myself and my family grace when things were going badly. What if. What if I had taken the right supplements or believed the right things or asked for help sooner when I had postpartum depression? Why didn’t I clean the breastmilk off of my shirt or wash my hair before all of those pictures the first year, which show up in my Timehop every day? And if I had really known that she wouldn’t always fall asleep on my chest, I might have kept her there for longer.
I’m afraid. Was I enough? Did we do enough as parents? Are any of us equipped for kindergarten or bullying at school or learning to read or whatever will come our way? When suffering comes, because it will, will I point to all the good and true things when I don’t actually know what to say or believe?
And that pesky problem of time. These five years have flown by … so slowly. At every point that I checked on our progress, I thought my moment, day, week would last forever. But here we are. I want time to just pause long enough for me to look at every baby picture, watch every video, read every journal entry, and soak it all in so I can move forward equipped with a full tank of love and understanding of what we’ve been through.
I have a feeling that the parents’ eve of kindergarten and sitting at the deathbed of a loved one are the two times in life that we really wish for this chance to stop and take it all in. I guess maybe when she graduates from high school, but that sounds like heaven again, so check back in 13 years. The rest of the time, we’re ticking off the seconds and willing them away sooner. Especially in waiting. Or in loss. No one wants to relish that.
But that brings me to the good news. We made it! We are living this life together, and it’s scary and we hurt, but there’s also joy and exhilaration in letting go and just going forward. For a little girl in her shiny new school shoes and for her mama in tear-stained flip flops, this is what comes next, and we can be thankful for it and dread it all at once.
If I’ve learned one thing this far into motherhood, and I sincerely hope that I have and there’s something to show for my gray hairs, it’s that it’s OK to feel all the things. I’ll always have regret, because I’ll always make mistakes and get messier than I plan to. And I’ll always have fear, because as much as I try to be brave, you can’t be brave if there’s not something to be afraid of in the first place. Allowing myself to feel it all frees me up to really experience the joy that comes from growing and moving on to new things. Teaching my girl that through tearful smiles will give her permission to feel it all too.
But bigger than regret, fear, or any other feeling is the love that I have for that 5-year-old girl. While the late-night nursing sessions and sweet lullabies of the past won’t carry her through the future inevitable heartache of feeling unseen, unknown, unaccepted by people around her, we have a lifetime ahead of us for me to hold her close and remind her of who she is and who loves her.
So, come Monday morning at kindergarten drop-off, it will be time. Time to cry, to be brave, to be excited, to be thankful, and to move forward ready to learn and embrace the new. And that sweet girl of mine will probably feel a few of those things too.