I sat down next to my girl and asked, "What are you worried about?"
"Momma, I WON'T KNOW ALL THE NUMBERS." She cried, emphatically.
Often I wonder at this strong little girl. So sure of herself, so knowing. Often we forget her age and joke that we think she is an 80 year old woman, who came back for one more wild ride in this life. Lorelei is here for the party. She is here to embrace every delicious second of this life. Rarely does she give herself permission and time to recognize her fears. She replaces that nervousness with bravado and a fierce determination that she can talk away her butterflies. Seeing her take a quiet moment to offer vulnerability and voice her worries is a relief. These moments, a reminder to support her strength, but also help her recognize and accept that her vulnerability is just as valid.
"Oh baby, it's okay to be nervous but I promise you, you don't need to know your numbers. You are going to learn all that. Mommy has been to school and she is still learning, every single day. That is the best part of life, always learning, always discovering."
Her eyes got wide as she whispered, "Really?"
"Really!" I nodded. With that, her whole body relaxed in the new knowledge that not knowing is just another exciting adventure.
My own nervousness arrived us at school earlier than usual. I told myself quietly that this was a good thing. This meant more time for Lorelei to adjust to the kids, but in truth, it was momma who needed time to adjust.
Graysen and Lorelei climbed out of the car and trying to slow my breathing, I reminded myself that though the urge to hold onto my girl tight was so strong, she was my girl that needed to fly. She needed this adventure. I am forever a "never say never" mom. Choosing to keep our options open, homeschooling has always been one of those options, just not yet exercised. When Caylen went to Kindergarten, we told ourselves, that if it wasn't a good fit, we could always homeschool. That permission to change our minds, our exit strategy, has always been a comfortable safety net for an "incase" moment.
Why then today was I ready to throw the brakes on the whole shebang?
Watching the two of them walk to the crosswalk I wanted to shout, "Stop, rewind. Let's go home. School is cancelled. Forever!"
Parenting is all about adjusting and readjusting. Remembering our "exit strategy", one foot in front of the other, we made it across the crosswalk.
Feelings from eight years ago, came flooding back. Caylen going to school for the first time, I remember feeling this sense of panic with every step towards the first big day. This worry that there were all these hours in the day that would be trusted to someone else. Giving up that control, releasing it, came in part with developing a fantastic communication with the school and his teachers.
It came from seeing him blossom and grow in his new adventure. As he is a child that craves human interaction, I learned quickly to adapt and realize that him being at school did not mean giving up control. Instead, it meant opening our parenting world up to include some fantastic, gifted team mates. A realization came quickly, that the saying, "It takes a village" meant not only the family and friends you chose, but also the educators that cared deeply for your children. Those gifted guides that work in tandem with willing families, opening their village up to another level of amazing. This was a lesson we learned even more so with Graysen. Knowing instinctively of his needs, there was this fear he wasn't ready, but we charged ahead, knowing that the exit strategy was always there, waiting in the sidelines. The gift of our teammates for him was ten fold. His teachers, through the years, all beautiful humans that genuinely liked him and saw Graysen, not a label. This has given him a secure place to learn and grow and it has given us the gift of healing, realizing that there are those that see our child and not a problem.
All these memories and lessons ran through me as Lorelei stood close to me. It felt like she was testing to make sure that this was still the same safe little cocoon she knew from all her times volunteering in her brother's classes. She took in the kids playing, giving me a front row seat to the moment when her curiosity and playful spirit, eventually tipped the scales on her uncertainty. Like watching a bucket spill over, she slowly leaned forward and then ran for the roundabout, climbing all the way to the top. A look of relaxed bliss spread across her features as she took in the playground from her new vantage point. When did her legs get long enough to climb to the top?
My sister and I had a talk one day about having kids and we came to the realization that the image we held in our mind of ourselves as mother's, was an image of us with young children. We never fast forwarded to what it might look like parenting growing children. Instead we were stunted, resting in the eternally Peter Pan outlook of a motherhood defined only by babies and toddlers.
There is so much amazing past all the angst of diapers, and feedings. Past first steps and teething, there was this whole world of wonder when you realize it feels good, watching them grow. Something about having newborns, allows you to hold onto your own youth. Part of me mourns the end of that, but more so I am surprised to find myself excited to watch them carry on, to adventure and discover in this world.
The bell startled me. Snapping me out of the conversations with other moms. The, "me too's" and the "can't believe your little one is old enough already" faded quickly, as kids scattered into their classrooms.
Our girl ran to the kindergarten room, and stopped short outside the door. She wore her nervous excitement in every fiber of her being. In her hand she held a picture, that this morning, she had insisted she needed to draw for her teacher. Once inside, shyly handing it over, all her uncertainty melting the second she started explaining her artwork.
Teacher formalities out of the way, she made fast friends with a few little girls and took over the puzzle table. This was about the time that I was released dismissively with a quick kiss and a, "You can go have your coffee now mom. I love you."
Walking slowly to the door, it hit me, this feeling like I was getting away with something. Like it was all too easy. Part of me wanted her to need me, to ask me to stay, but this ain't momma's first Rodeo. Knowing she would be fine, that she would miss me, but she would be okay, I kept going, inertia pushing me out the door. Muttering something to the teacher about being given permission to leave, knowing that if I stopped, I wouldn't start again. Leaping clear of the door, a tad giddy, I may have made eye contact with some mom's and let out a tiny, "Woohoo!" letting inertia continue to push me to the car.
Inside the quiet warmth of the car, that giddy feeling was instantly overcome by a wave of sadness. For the last 13 years, I have had a little adventurer home with me, to take on the day. This September would be something else entirely.
When Caylen went to school, I tried to shush all those voices of worry, or sadness. I tried to fall in line with the response I thought I was supposed to have. 13 years into this parenting thing though, I've learned that it's all okay. The sadness, the nostalgia, the worry, the feeling of losing control, the excitement and the giddy. It's all valid, and it's all going to be okay. It's just another amazing adventure we are standing overlooking.