Today, my oldest started her second year of preschool–her last before she heads off to “The Big School” (as she calls it). While summer was fun in its relaxing, no-schedule kind of way, we have all been craving more of a routine lately.
We were ready for this school year to begin.
Of course, ready or not, I’m still never quite prepared for that first goodbye, for that first drop-off into a new year, that first big leap of trust in allowing my child to be in the hands of a stranger.
This year, her preschool is much closer than it was last year–two blocks over, in fact. This morning, Raven started waking up around 5 and basically continued to wake up at regular intervals until we all finally relented and got up sometime in the 6:00 hour. It meant a rare shower for me before 8 a.m., and a baby who got fussy for his nap an hour earlier than normal–right before we were about to leave, in fact.
I debated putting him down anyway–we were just walking two blocks away, after all–but in the end, I strapped him in his stroller (already swaddled for bedtime), double- and triple-checked that Raven had everything she needed, took the requisite First Day Picture, and we were off.
This morning was cloudy and more than a bit windy. Raven’s just-curled hair whipped around, and she strode with purpose towards our destination, her new pink backpack nearly down past her knees and swinging from side to side.
As always, she provided constant commentary for our walk:
“Mom, when are the trees going to start changing color?”
“Wow, look at that! A nest! Look, Mom—a bird’s nest in our tree!”
“Look at Muh-EYE-is (how she pronounces Mathias’s name)–he’s just so sweet in his swaddle in the stroller.”
“We’re going to have to run, Mom—look! There’s a sprinkler up ahead.”
“WOW! Look at that! That isn’t for a truck—that’s shiny and gold and actually for planting flowers!” (commentary on a tire our neighbor had spray-painted a shiny gold and used as a planter)
“I’m going to read books, Mom! I’m going to learn to read books today!”
As we came within sight of the house that the preschool is held at, I noticed (with relief, as we were a bit early) that we weren’t the first ones there. I watched the other mom go inside with her daughter holding her hand, talk with the teacher, reassure her girl that she’d have a fun time, and give her a tight hug before leaving.
The second I confirmed to her which house it was (as we were still over a house away from it), she took off as fast as her legs could carry her, leaving me and her brother in the dust, with only one single look backward—“Bye, Mom! I’ll see you later!”
She is definitely my daughter.
When I was 22, I served a religious mission for my church. As my mission assignment required that I learn a foreign language (Spanish), I needed to spend two months at the missionary training center (called the MTC for short) before heading out to El Salvador.
In the MTC, it used to be a well-known cultural fact that the goodbyes as you got dropped off there could be brutal. After all, you were saying goodbye to your family for a year and a half to two years, with phone calls only permitted on Mother’s Day, Christmas, and family emergencies (though the communication guidelines have since been altered significantly and missionaries can now contact their families weekly by phone or video chat). This was all part of the bargain though, so you knew exactly what you were signing up for.
I was the first (and only) of my siblings to serve a mission, so I’d never experienced firsthand the infamous Goodbye, but I’d heard plenty about it from some missionaries/mothers who had an especially hard time with it.
I gave each member of my family present a long hug and told each of them I loved them, and then I walked toward The Door–the one marked “Missionaries”–without a backward glance. I didn’t really think about it or plan on doing it that way, I was just ready–ready for the adventure that lay ahead. I only really noticed because my mom pointed it out to me later in her first letter to me. She knew it meant I was more than prepared to serve—that my whole heart was in it.
I think my daughter’s the exact same way.
I see in her my passion for learning, and the love for reading and books that she’s inherited from both my husband and me. I see her confidence in her ability to fit in and make new friends, her eagerness to gain the extra independence that comes from taking steps on her own, away from us.
And I hope that, just like I felt when I left for my mission, she steps outward with eagerness not because she won’t miss us, but because she knows that Home is always there, waiting for her with eager arms.