When you have a baby, when that monumental moment in time comes, and you literally bring your child into the world, the doctors, nurses, your family and friends, they all forget to tell you one thing. That you are taking a piece of your heart, and putting it into a being separate from you, and that with each nap, with each play date, with each breath they take, they are pushing further from you.
All those firsts you look forward to, first smile, first time baby rolls over, first steps, they are firsts that will separate your child from you. From the moment you give birth, you are separating, the act of giving birth is the first step in letting your child go.
Tomorrow, Sprout starts Pre-K. Like everything we have done so far, and everything we will do for the foreseeable future, she’ll be at home. The school corner has been cleaned and organized, I put together a new Circle Time board, and she has new crayons and colored pencils. When the store did not have the color glitter glue she wanted, I bought clear and added glitter to make her preferred color. I bought her a new backpack, even though we use that more for trips than school, she has a lunch box and a thermos, and I had to promise her tonight, during bath time, that I would pack her lunch in it. So we’ll have school in the living room, and she’ll eat lunch at the kitchen table, out of her lunch box. Or maybe we’ll sit outside.
But she’s starting Pre-K. And all those First Day pictures, and the cupcakes, and the certificate (of course she has a First Day Certificate), and all the projects. They’re other ways of letting go. When she mastered holding her scissors the right way, and told me she was a big girl, I was in the middle of feeding Pudge. It didn’t hit me until later, when I was picking minute pieces of paper out of my carpet, cut neatly, that I realized she had done it again. Taken another step away.
Those fingers that are holding safety scissors will one day hold real ones. She’ll put together college projects, work projects. Those fingers might sign laws into effect, might write legal briefs, might guide a rocket to Mars. Might dig holes for flowers, or cut silk for a designer dress. But she gained another step on the road to independence, when she remembered Thumb Up Top, Pointy End Out.
Your children are not really yours, they belong to themselves. Sprout has belonged to herself since she made her entrance into the world, serene and calm, watching the world through foggy eyes. The face that echoes my own at that age, the eyes that are duplicates of mine, they are hers. She belongs to herself, and she is slowly but steadily learning that.
I can hear her now, “Slow and steady wins the race Mama. Just like the tortoise in the story.” She still calls me Mama, and I dread the day that turns to Mom. I’ve liked being Mama, even when I get tired of hearing that name. Mama is the world of littles, of little fingers and toes, of nursery rhymes and rock me to sleep and I’m scared let me come sleep with you. I like this place. I know this place, of little girls, of toes barely big enough to put paint on, of untangling hair first thing in the morning, of frilly dresses and bare feet on a warm day. This place of Sesame Street and You Are My Sunshine is the place I have been the happiest.
Really that’s it, I don’t want them to grow on me for purely selfish reasons. I am happy.
I am tired. I am exhausted. I want a hot shower and a days’ worth of sleep and someone to cook all the meals for a year. But I am happy here, in the land of littles.
And my girls are determined to lead me out of this place, where I am happy. I am sure the next stage in motherhood will be happy too. But this stage was where I met happy, where I learned that I could meditate with a baby in my belly, or in my lap. That in the moment meant coloring in a princess themed coloring book with my pajamas still on, and coffee growing cold on the counter. This stage taught me the healing powers of a baby asleep on your chest, on the peace and contentment a child could bring. I like this stage because it has healed me, as much as I have raised my children through it.
So this is why, as I pulled together what we’ll need for the week, I found myself crying. We are ready, we have everything we need. I am not ready.
My littles are leaving this stage, and I would happily stay here for a lifetime.