This week you start kindergarten.
Last night I lay in bed for a long time unable to sleep. I thought of you wearing your new “tan” (as you say) school uniform, sitting in that classroom, in that big new school with new teachers and new friends and new experiences and the image startled me, causing adrenalin to rush through my body. And then I thought of that big yellow bus arriving to pick you up – you skipping down the sidewalk towards it and I could hardly breathe. How would you know what to do? Have you ever even ridden a bus? Where will you sit? Who will talk you through it and make sure you feel safe and give the other kids the “stern eyes” if they are mean? And why haven’t I thought of this already?
The thing about you, Nora, is that you…are…indescribable. People ask about you – your personality – and I hem and haw and usually end up saying something about how feisty you are or what a “firecracker” you can be. But that’s not exactly it. Sometimes I think I could describe you through book titles: “Raising Your Spirited Child,” or “Gifted Children and Arguing,” or “Raising an Extrovert When You Are An Introvert.” Again, that doesn’t give the complete picture.
So many nights when your dad and I are “debriefing” after the day, we will talk about something cute your brother did and how sweet he is. And then we talk about Maia – the always capable, enduring one. And then we talk about you…many times it starts with what a frustrating day/night/week it has been and how you flew off the handle when someone announced it was dinnertime…I’m sorry, but I have to be honest here. But always, always the conversation turns. Just as we are complaining about how you wouldn’t share one thing, one of us says how kind you really are to your brother and how well you play with him – when you want to. Or just when we are gritting our teeth about how stubborn and argumentative you are and how rarely you will entertain one of our suggestions, we remember that actually, when we let go of our own willfulness – you are so often right. And smart. So damn smart. You know more about wild animals and sea creatures than I can ever hope to retain. You beg us to quiz you with math problems before bed and I think, “who is this child?” We talk about how funny you are – remember when you wanted to get your hair cut in the shape of an animal? And how you decided that the top ranks of Girl Scouts are the “peregrine falcon” and “Cleopatra” ranks? You are intense and passionate and wacky and zany – you wear yellow and purple and rain boots and a feather in your hair all at once. We talk about how in the moment you live – Nora, you know how to carpe diem the shit out of life.
The other thing, Nora, is that you are wise beyond your years. You are, as they say, an “old soul.” You came shooting into this world, ready to take it on in an instant. It says a lot that the first words I said when you were born were, “holy shit, did that just happen?!” Perhaps that’s why it’s only hitting me now that this – kindergarten – is happening. Because you hold such wisdom I often treat you like you are much older than you are. But you are five. Only five. That suddenly seems so young – probably because it is so young.
I didn’t cry when Maia went to kindergarten. Maybe because she did kindergarten at the same school where she had done preschool. Or because she’s Maia – she knows how to ride waves created by other people. She knows when to step aside and be the bystander. She knows how to keep the peace.
But Nora – my dear Nora – you, my love, are the waves. You will never be the bystander – for better or worse – you are the moral compass, the seeker of right, the teller of stories. You takes sides, you throw punches, you stand up for the underdog, you are not embarrassed to be loud, to be heard, to upset the proverbial apple cart. Nora, you will take that apple cart, decorate it with ribbons, fill it with chocolate and leave everyone in the dust as you tip your glitter-covered cowgirl hat.
And this is why I cry for you. You have been in a preschool that was dropped into our lives through divine intervention. Your teacher has learned the beat of your soul – she gives you space when you need it and holds you tight when you need that. She hands you the ribbons to decorate and yells, “yee-haw” as you depart. She has treasured your intensity and given you room to grow. She knows your ebb and flow.
I cry because I know you are entering a whole new world. This will be a world that will challenge you, Nora. You will run up against some walls, some rules; some things that may feel unjust. You will need to put away your paints before you are completely done and you may need to eat lunch faster than you think you should. Some kids might not believe your stories and some might call you a liar. It’s just…it’s the world. It’s not that it’s an unkind place, Nora, but there are many people who may think differently than you do and they may not understand your perspective and this
may be will be hard for you.
So here’s my guarantee. I will be there. I will be standing by as you skip down the sidewalk to that giant bus. I will be your landing spot when you arrive back home. I may not take my normal shape – during the day I might be the little token that sits in your pocket that says “courage” on the back. Or maybe I’ll be the paper heart torn out of the back of a bill that I snuck in your lunch box. I will be your touchpoint; your home. And sometimes I’ll need help – one person (even me!) is not enough to hold all you have to offer. That’s why I send you out there with trust – because I know, and YOU know, that you, my girl, were meant to expand and be received by many. There’s no holding you down. You’ve got work to do out there, stories to tell, apple carts to overhaul. The world is really a beautiful place. Please remember that. And above all, know – never, ever doubt – that my love is boundless and unconditional.