I was a teacher for ten years, and every night before the first day of school, I was up all night. I worried endlessly. Would the children be nice? Would they listen and follow instructions? All but one year it was true. Would the parents be nice to me? Most of the time, although there were a few who hated everything–for example, a man who complained that the library had books in it, or a woman who thought the drinking fountain was too far from the classroom, and somehow thought I could just pull it off the wall and move it. Most of the time, however, they were kind, supportive and willing to work to give their children the support they needed.
But this time, I was on the other side. My daughter M started kindergarten last week. I asked her if she was nervous, and she said, “No, everything will be fine!” She packed her backpack, laid out her clothes, and promptly went to bed.
I lay awake all night, worrying. Would she like her teacher? Would she learn what she needed to? Would the other parents be nice? How would I drop her off? I didn’t want to go the wrong way and look foolish. Could I find her classroom successfully? Did I get all the right supplies? Would M be happy?
I peeked in at M, sleeping peacefully in a pile of dress up clothes and Barbies, and I tried to tell myself that if she wasn’t worried, why should I be?
But I did. How could I let this little bitty girl go out into the world? This is the beginning, after all–elementary school, then middle, then high school, and then off to college and on her own for good. The first five years went so fast.
The next morning, she was up and dressed, wolfed down her cereal and was ready to go an hour early. When we did get there, she raced around the playground with her best friend from the neighborhood. We took pictures and waited for her teacher. When she appeared, M and her friend joined hands and stood by the door. M looked back over her shoulder at me and yelled,” Bye! I love you! Here we go!” and the two of them went inside, laughing.
I thought I’d cry; I’ve seen so many parents weep at the door when they leave their children. Strangely enough, I didn’t. She looked so happy, and so beautiful in her bright dress and flowered sandals. But more than that, she was confident, eager, and ready to begin this new stage of her life. As her mother, that’s the best thing I can ask for: a child ready to go out into the world, brave and full of hope.