As the epic, cliched version of the story goes, today I was first supposed to take a picture of you smiling with your absurdly cute backpack on by our front door. Ideally, you’d be holding some version of sign reading, “my first day of preschool!” I think next I am supposed to put you in the car, drive you to school and then weep (or at least get teary-eyed in the less dramatic version of the tale) while you wave goodbye to me at the steps of your preschool door. I’m fairly certain you were supposed to cry, too, as this momentous occasion symbolizes the first step you take into the real world, and the first step you take on the slow, but steady journey away from me.
But that wasn’t how it went. At all. We were running late. I threw a diaper in a bag while you stood in the living room, poking the puppy’s eyes with a red crayon. I looked at the clock. “Oh shhh..” Don’t worry, I stopped myself. “Oh shucks! We have ten minutes!” I quickly threw on my coat, put your shoes on the wrong feet, and sprinted towards the car, forgetting my wallet. We pulled up to the adorable little house where you will attend school for the next 1+ years and it was at this point that I realized I hadn’t snapped a picture yet. That’s where this mom-on-the-run shot comes in:
We swooped through the doors to the cottage and were greeted by two very sweet teachers and a host of teeny toddlers. You walked right in and made yourself at home while mommy got the orientation lowdown, which ended with, “so you will be snack mom every few weeks, and here is an invitation to Tommy’s birthday party,” as the teacher handed me a tiny envelope. I looked across the room to you and admired how casually you were making new friends, but my anxiety soared with each new hand you held. It wasn’t until then that it hit me. I would have to make new friends, too. I would have to show up to two year-old birthday parties with a present for a kid I know nothing about, and awkwardly survive small-talk with mothers I have never met. My mind quickly shot off to my own days in preschool, where I sat as the lonely girl in the corner, petrified like a garden statue with the social skills of a gremlin. I calmed down for just a moment by assuring myself that you would act as my social crutch, with your charming ways and gregarious personality. “Katie, that’s pathetic. She’s two. You’re thirty. Get your sh*t together.”
The teacher was surprised at how seamlessly you blended in with the other children, most of whom had started school back in September. She kindly suggested that we skip the transition period, and told me to go treat myself to a pedicure and return at the normal pick-up time. She assured me that “Eva’s got this.” You quickly glanced at me, said, “Bye mommy!”, grabbed Jimmy’s hand and swept him off his feet and toward the crayons.
I slipped out the door with a huge smile on my face, and as I closed the door to the car and started to drive off, it felt like a million pounds melted off my chest. I was so proud of you, kid. And so relieved that you will never have to endure years of psychiatric care, just to learn how to say “hello” to a stranger without feeling like you’re being stabbed in the gut.
There are just some things better left un-inherited.