My oldest daughter, Emma, turned 5 in January. To her, that meant a Star Wars birthday party with Princess Leia cupcakes and a Padawan Training Camp in which she got to throw water balloons at
Daddy Darth Vader and rescue Han Solo from carbonite.
But for me, the big oh-five comes with one major prize. KINDERGARTEN! Yes, I am that freak who gets nostalgic every August over spiral notebooks and three-ring binders. I could get high sniffing freshly sharpened pencils and loose leaf paper. I want to buy jean jackets and plaid skirts. I want to quiz her on spelling words. I want to chaperone a frickin field trip!
Honestly, it’s a good thing Matt was already married to me when he discovered this illness of mine.
Me: Oh my gosh, Honey, don’t you think this would be the most adorable backpack for her first day of Kindergarten?
Matt: You’re only 4 months pregnant. Maybe we should wait a few years.
I took Emma to her elementary school for her reading assessment last week. It was both her and my first time setting foot in the building. I dropped the other two kids at a friend’s house so my attention wouldn’t be divided when I talked to the teacher (thanks Dave!). As we pulled into the circle driveway in front of the school, I said, “This is it, baby. This is your school. Isn’t it wonderful?” In my rearview she gave me a smile and a nod.
After I parked, I climbed into the backseat (even though she doesn’t need help unbuckling). I put my hands on her cheeks and studied her eyes. “You’re such a big girl. I’m so proud of you.”
“Why?” she said.
“Because you’ve grown up so much! And in just a couple weeks you’ll be starting Kindergarten!”
“Mom, I’ve been growing up for like, my whole life.”
She’s right. Even my five-year-old recognizes the insanity of my zealousness. She’s been growing up every day since Matt and I conceived her. She grew from loving a plush doll baby named Duckie to playing dress up and princesses. She grew from looking so sweet in her matching baby outfits and pigtails to wanting nail polish and lipstick.
Emma can sit for hours in her bean bag chair reading Star Wars books. She fights with her sister over who gets to hold my iPhone and choose which P!nk song plays next. She goes on treasure hunt walks to find the prettiest rocks our neighborhood has to offer and collects them in a big plastic bucket that we keep in my office. She’s terrified of birds. She loves babies. (Sometimes she loves them a little too much. Hopefully her friends’ little sisters will forgive her for the smothering some day.)
And in less than a week, she will begin thirteen years of mandatory schooling. Probably more. (You better go to college, girl!) Five days a week, she’ll wake up early. She’ll get herself ready to go. She’ll take her princess backpack and her Star Wars lunchbox and that sweet, uninhibited mind of hers to a classroom. All day. She’ll spend 6 hours away from me. She’ll make new friends, learn math and spelling, trade lunches, learn to double-dutch, and grow up even more. When she gets home, she’ll have home work and permission slips. She’ll have responsibilities.
We came home from our beach trip last night, and for the past 16 hours or so I’ve been feeling like summer vacation is over, and today marks the beginning of the real countdown to Kindergarten. These next few days are the very last that Emma will spend as a true, free-wheeling, unaccountable kid.
She’s been telling me for a long time now that no matter how big she gets, she’s still going to live with me and Daddy. Even when she has her own babies. Her kids are going to sleep in the room she has now, and she’s going to sleep in my room with me. She’ll be married to Daddy, so we don’t need any extra space for her husband.
Right now, I’m ready to hold her to that.