Gut Punch: My Babies Are Going KindergartenJane Roper
About a month ago, I went — along with the girls — to the kindergarten open house, where we toured the classrooms and said hello to the kindergarten teachers at what will be their school in the Fall. It was a little overwhelming, but not a particularly emotional experience (even though Clio was clearly a bit spooked by the whole thing.)
Then, two weeks ago, Elsa and Clio had their preschool graduation festivities. Basically the whole school participates in them — there’s a show where each class sings a couple of songs, followed by a little festival — so the girls have been in it twice before. Still, I thought maybe this year I’d get a little weepy or something, it being their final year of preschool.
Last week was their last full week of school. I was on a video shoot all day on their last day, so I didn’t drop them off or pick them up, which I was a little bummed out about; it was strange to think, after the fact, that I’d probably never set foot in the building again. I felt a little wistful, but in an abstract kind of way.
And then, this weekend, it really sank in for the first time.
We were taking a walk around our neighborhood on Sunday afternoon — we’d been stuck inside all day, but it had finally stopped raining, so we decided to take a stroll — and ended up walking over to the girls’ future school, which is just a few blocks from our house.
Clio had brought her Curious George doll (constant companion since she was barely two years old) and Elsa brought her “blankie” — a little security blanket / stuffed animal thingy that looks sort of like what a manta ray would look like if you stuck a small plush giraffe head on it. (And if the manta ray were made of plush yellow with a satin lining.) When we got to the school — the playground, specifically — the girls were sweet and joyful, running around on the equipment, pushing their stuffed animals down the slide.
Meanwhile, some older elementary school kids — or maybe middle schoolers; I can’t tell anymore — came down from the adjacent ballfields and were hanging out on some of the playround equipment, horsing around and eating chips and generally being 11 or 12 or however old they were. At one point I looked from the “big kids” back to my girls, in their last flush of preschooler-hood, and felt a sudden, powerful wave of sadness and emotion, which brought tears to my eyes.
The enormity of this transition hit: Our days of having little ones at home are about to be over. And soon, the girls won’t be carrying stuffed animals around or mispronouncing their “R”s or crawling up onto our laps whenever they get a chance. They’ll be big kids. And then bigger, and then bigger still.
Just seconds after this rogue wave of realization hit, I was overcome with intense nausea. Like, so intense I seriously felt I was on the verge of puking, told Alastair so, and went off to try to find a place to do it where it wouldn’t be discovered by elementary school kids and/or some poor custodian the next day.
I didn’t throw up, as it turned out. But I cried a little, sitting on the steps around the side of the school. (And, yes, I did have the fleeting thought: what if I’m pregnant? And it didn’t seem like such a bad thing. But I’m not. Pretty sure, anyway. And also sure I don’t want to *be* pregnant ever again.)
Then I pulled myself together, and when Alastair and the girls rejoined me we took a little walk past the front of the school, where we spotted some flowers planted by one of the kindergarten classes, and some pine cones strung in a tree, which the girls speculated were probably bird feeders. (Smart kids) “I bet it was a school project!” said Clio.
They will be fantastic little kindergarteners. They are ready for new adventures, new challenges. But I don’t know how I — how any parent — can possibly feel anything but reluctant (and, in my case, nauseated) when it comes to watching them take that leap.
I’ve been hugging and kissing them relentlessly ever since that walk. But I can’t hold them tight enough to keep them from growing up.
Photo: Mara Brod