Yesterday, I bought you a dinosaur backpack and some closed-toed sneakers. After watching a "Bubble Guppies" episode about school, you screamed for joy when we told you that you, too, would be going to school soon.
Now, every morning you ask us how many days until school starts. You read books to prepare yourself for school and I try not to giggle when I notice that you are holding your books upside down.
We have long talks about how much fun school will be. You say you can't wait to meet your teacher and make new friends and I go on and on about how proud I am of you. And I am. I am beyond proud. But late at night when you are sleeping, I think about you putting your backpack into a little cubby with your name on it and I burst into tears.
After spending so much time obsessing about what school to send you to, I can't believe I am crying. Shouldn't I be relieved? I am officially done with the New York City preschool process. But now I see all the school tours, hours spent researching teaching methods and time wasted googling the names of different schools was a convenient way for me to divert my attention from the truth: You can't be my little baby forever.
Not only can you not be my little baby forever, you can't be mine because you were never mine. Caring for your every need for the past 2 ½ years made it seem like you were mine. And while you are my daughter, you aren't mine. You can feed yourself, go potty by yourself and I can leave the room for hours without you becoming hysterical. Every day, you are becoming more and more independent and while I am beaming with pride, I am also scared to death.
I keep thinking about what your grandpa said he did when I moved out of his house. I begged for him to send me to a boarding arts school. He was against it, but encouraged me because I was so passionate about it. He says that the day I left he sat all day in my room and cried. When I was younger, I laughed at this. Your grandpa is notorious for hating to talk about his feelings and to this day, I have never seen him cry. So, the image of your football-loving grandpa crying in my pink room humored me to no end. How dramatic and silly! Now, 15 years later, I think his response was understandable and if anything, respectably understated.
Your grandpa begged me to go to college in Kansas, but I refused. I moved farther from him and never looked back. I started a family in New York City. When I became pregnant, he suggested that maybe it would be better if I raised you in Kansas. Again, I said no. Somehow, he psychically knew when I would go into labor and was there for your birth. If he had come a day later, he would have missed it. We live far apart, making last-minute visits impossible. Whenever I go to visit our family in Kansas, he always begs me to stay just one more day. He'll even cover the airline change fees. But I can't stay. Daddy and I have to work. You now have school. And we have a life in New York that he plays only a supporting role in.
Your grandpa doesn't complain about me living in New York very often, probably because he knows I am happy. He would be happier if I lived in Kansas. If we had the same political views and never argued. If I had a more normal job. These things would make him really happy, but make me miserable. Now I know that part of being a good parent is encouraging your child to do things you know will make them happy, even when those same things may make you anything but happy.
Believe me, I know it's a bit over-the-top to compare your going to preschool to me leaving home at 14 to go to boarding school. I know being away from you three days a week isn't the same as you living in a different state. I know I don't have to send you to preschool. There is still time to pull you out and keep you all to myself, but that wouldn't make you very happy, would it?
You've been fascinated with school every since our cousin moved to the city to attend graduate school. You have a triceratops backpack. And let's be real... the BUBBLE GUPPIES go to school. Your first day of school will be the first of many times I will send you off with a smile even though I am crying inside. I want what's best for you, not what's best for me so I will do my best to support you in all your new adventures.
Unless you want to go to a boarding high school, that is...