My daughter said it to me, almost shyly, as we walked down the driveway to wait for the bus. It was her first day of kindergarten. Somehow, the weather knew to be that perfect back-to-school 72 degrees, a hint of fall with the sweet warmth of summer.
We’d been waiting for this day for a long, long time. She’d talked about kindergarten all summer long, counting down the days. Just yesterday, in fact, she had shot out of bed, jumping into the living room shouting, “It’s my first day of kindergarten tomorrow! I’M SO EXCITED!” (It was 5:56 a.m.)
Today, she was bubbling with happiness—putting her lunch in her backpack, tucking her bus pass into the bag’s special pocket, making sure to tell her little sisters that THEY DIDN’T HAVE SCHOOL YET BECAUSE THEY WERE ONLY IN NURSERY SCHOOL.
But today, she suddenly felt how big and new it all was. Today was the day. And it was scary.
I looked at my daughter. She looked so old to me—a big girl, with a braid, a new dress and backpack, and new sneakers (for maximum speed). In her face, I see the slightest signs of her little face as a baby, traces of her first smile.
Five years—where did they go? I remember being in labor with her in the hospital. I remember looking at my husband trying to sleep on the uncomfortable chair next to me, thinking, “This will change everything.” And she did. She changed everything.
I was scared then. So, so scared. This was my second time around—I had two boys from my first marriage, but this would be my new husband’s first child and our first child together. It would mean the end to our every-other-weekend honeymoons. It would mean he and I would be starting from scratch, from the beginning—embarking on a lifetime journey of worries, joy, and chaos. It would be my first girl—what would that be like? I was starting on a new life with this birth—for her and myself. And I was scared.
I hold her hand more tightly. “Everyone is scared when they do something new for the first time,” I told her. “You’re going to a new school, starting a new adventure. But you are so brave.”
She looked up at me. “I’m not.”
“You are,” I said. “Because it is brave to admit to someone that you’re scared.”
So much I want to tell her. You are scared, I want to say, because you are leaving part of yourself behind. You’re no longer the baby we carried everywhere, or the toddler who refused to stop singing “Let It Go.” You are going somewhere by yourself. I’m going to have to let go of your hand. And all of that is scary.
It’s scary for me, too, I want to say.
But I don’t.
We kissed, and my husband and I told her we love her.
And then she got on the bus and didn’t look back.