You know that car commercial? The one where the Dad hands over the keys to his 7-year-old daughter? At least she looks like she’s 7 through her father’s eyes, but in fact she’s really 17. I feel like that Dad this week. My daughter has her first day of Kindergarten on Friday, but I’m not sure how that’s really possible. There’s no way, it seems, that backpack can fit on my baby’s shoulders. She cannot possibly stride that confidently up the front steps when only yesterday she was learning to crawl. How will she ask for help when she is still forming the vocabulary of her life? She is looking forward to mastering the monkey bars, but it seems like only last summer that she discovered the swing. And how will she find her way without the companionship of Natalie and Aiden — her very first friends and classmates for the last 5+ years?
I know my daughter is brave and stoic. I know she has accomplished so many amazing things. I’ve been telling the story for weeks about how she mastered the very challenging and frightening ropes course during our vacation just a couple weeks ago. She can watch the scary parts of her movies without batting an eyelash. She has an uncanny ability to calm and comfort her brother and to teach him how to play nicely and use good manners. She writes her name beautifully, adds and subtracts in her head, can make eggs and tacos, do real cartwheels, and swim the short length of the pool all by herself.
And yet, while she’s grown too heavy for me to carry her up the stairs of our own house, she’s still that tiny baby who hated to eat and loved to read and to listen to the songs her Daddy made up for her. She’s still that toddler who was so tiny that her pants would fall off of her without warning on the way to the playground or back to class. She’s the little girl who had her mommy by her side for every big “first” — her first words (bubble and purple), her first steps (oh how much she wanted to keep hanging on to my pinky), her first big bed (and how we snuggled together for hours, even after she fell asleep), her first trip to the beach (when I was convinced she’d keep walking across the Atlantic all the way to Europe if I didn’t hold her tight enough), her first roller coaster ride (which quickly became a second and third and fourth and fifth).
But for this first — her first day of Kindergarten — all I can do is walk her to the front door and let go. I think she will look both bigger and smaller than she ever has and quite a bit blurry through my tears of sadness and joy and pride.