My precious little 5 year old daughter started kindergarten yesterday. This really is a happy/sad moment for a parent. I’m thrilled for her and what her new school has in store for her. But at the same time I cannot believe that my little baby is not a baby anymore. It was surreal last week when we went to an open house walking through the school. At one point I was standing in the gym/auditorium (one of those gymnasiums with a stage), and I suddenly realized that the day would soon come when I would be sitting uncomfortably in a metal folding chair on that gym floor watching my daughter in some elementary-level performance on the stage while I am snapping photos and beaming with pride. And yet it seems like it was just yesterday that I was watching her cruise around the room in her walker while I frantically tried to shoo cats out of her way before she ran over their tails.
Even though she started school yesterday, it was only a two hour day with her mother going along with her. Today was the first full day, and most importantly the first day she would ride the bus … all by herself. I am used to having to drag my daughter out of bed and forcibly squeeze clothes over her little body before she’ll get going. This morning, though, we had something of a role reversal. She was ready to go 15 minutes early while I was still eating my breakfast. In order to fully understand the scenario, picture this anxious little 5 year old looming over my shoulder saying, “Daddy, I really need you to eat a bit faster,” then later, “Now Daddy, you’re doing a good job, but you still need to eat a little bit faster.” The final one took the cake, though. When her baby brother, who had been sleeping in his bouncy seat, woke up she looked squarely at my wife and me and said, “Now look, with all the yelling you’ve made me do you’ve made me wake up my brother.”
My wife and I recognized ourselves in these little scoldings. No longer were we the ones pushing her out the door, but she was pushing us. Sometimes the best way to realize what we as parents sound like is simply to listen to our kids.
I know there are other parents who have gone through what I am going through today. When my daughter took those first few steps onto the school bus, she turned back, gave me the biggest possible smile, and waved goodbye. Fortunately, I managed to hold it in until the bus was gone so that I didn’t have to explain to my daughter once again about why sometimes people cry even though they are happy.