The First Day of School

Yesterday was Fiona’s first day of preschool. I crouched down beside her and told her I’d be back in a little while to pick her up. She looked up at me and distractedly said, “Yeah, okay. Bye Mom!”

The preschool director was standing nearby. “Now there’s a girl who’s ready for preschool,” she said.

“Yeah,” I agreed. And left the room.

I stood in the hallway for a few minutes, trying to make leaving feel less strange. Less anxiety producing. I mean, I have freedom! For the next three hours my time is all mine!

And I have this tight feeling in the middle of my chest, like I’m forgetting something important. I want to run back into the room and hold on to my girl.  Hold her to my chest and tell her a million trillion more times that I love her.

She’d be so annoyed if I did.
I walk slowly out to my car and sit in the front seat willing myself to turn on the car and leave the parking lot. I know that in just a few hours I’ll pick her up and I’ll be on again. Back to being Mommy, back to having to have patience, back to all the things that have been making me crazy. But in this moment, none of that exists. What exists is that I have just trusted the most precious person in the whole world to people who don’t know her, to people who don’t know me. To people I’ve vetted, sure, but they are not friends. They don’t love her yet.  It’s terrifying. It’s like walking out without my lungs. I feel tense,  claustrophobic. Angry. Scared.

I fight back the panic. I pick up my phone and call a friend and leave a voice message.  I put the car into gear and drive out of the parking lot and get myself a coffee. The world feels surreal, but I have myself under control.

My child is fine. She is happy. She is getting something that she’d never be able to get from me. She is making friends. She is learning.

I drive myself home and turn on White Collar on Netflix and paint. I talk to a friend on the phone for a few minutes and relax. This is fun. This is peaceful. At around 11:00, I start watching the clock. If I leave to early, I won’t be able to pick her up.

I’m anxious and hopeful as I drive back. I hope she’s okay. I hope she had fun.

I watch through the little observation window for a while. They’re finishing circle time and the kids are restless, but all sitting, lying, wriggling in a circle. Fiona sits, then sprawls on her tummy as she listens to the story. The teacher is untroubled, by the lack of sitting still. Fiona is still paying attention.

When I walk into the room, she jumps into my arms and wraps herself around my neck, “Mommy, I missed you so much!”

“I missed you too, Baby.” I say as I sign her out with one hand and wave goodbye to a teacher who winks at me.

This growing up stuff is hard.

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