Letting Life Lead
Dear Sweet Pea:
When I walked you to the door of the school, we were a few minutes early and I tried to slow you down. That morning you woke up on your own, got dressed in record time, snarfed down your breakfast the fastest ever, packed your snack, and didn’t argue with your brother. You didn’t pay any attention to my pleas and continues to weave in and out of older students entering a different door, past hesitant five year olds who were still undecided about this whole school business, and paid no attention to the ones clinging to parental legs like life preservers. You had one goal: be first in line. They opened the doors, you stepped in first, introduced yourself, and disappeared inside forgetting to say good-bye. Your brother let go of my hand and followed you so sure he would be granted entry into Kindergarten at three and a half. I wasn’t surprised (I know you well) but my heart did crack a bit at the same time it swelled with pride.
I remember my first day. There is a picture of me from 1978 dressed in a white top with blue flowers, blue skirt, ruffled socks, and fancy shoes. My hair is down. There were no backpacks needed back then for kindergarten. The Polaroid is blurry because I am moving trying to yank open the giant yellow doors on the then new school. I don’t know if I was first, but I was so excited! Kids, kids, kids everywhere! I was an only child and it would be thirteen more years before I got siblings. I might have forgotten to say goodbye, too. Mrs. Thompson was the teacher and Mrs. Lopes her aide. I loved almost every moment of kindergarten except for that dark haired boy Michael who kept bothering me, and that boy Paul who kept running out of the room (it was inconceivable to me then why he wanted to escape). I tried to get revenge on Michael at naptime and it backfired. Revenge is a dish best left alone is what I learned that year!
One day if you have children of your own (though you insist that you won’t ever because it would hurt), I don’t know how I can explain to you how hard it is to let go after six years of being your teacher, life-giver, protector, coach, medic, counselor, referee, and the hundreds of roles a parent fills. I won’t know what you are doing or who you are with or if they are being kind, if you are being kind, or if you are angry, or feeling accomplished, or if you need anything, or if a long-fanged beast is stalking you from the wilds without me and my spear nearby to vanquish it! Sorry, sometimes instincts can be irrational.
Your world is now sometimes next to mine instead of in it.
And it isn’t that I think you can’t do it or aren’t ready. You make friends everywhere you go and have been talking about school since age three, so enthusiasm to be first definitely unsurprising. You are bold and adventurous and inquisitive. I don’t want you to lose those traits.
Time has moved so fast and I have tried desperately to hold on to every moment, only to have it go ever faster. It is like trying to capture a sunbeam. Now your time is not the same as mine. That is a very disorienting thing to process. You can’t even get away from time because every paranoid minute you a check the clock to avoid the horror of fullfilling the nightmare of forgetting to pick up your kid!
The truth is, I want to stalk you and spy. Yet, I know I can’t. If you boldly jump out of the nest, I have to let you. If you are reluctant to take the leap when you should, I must nudge you toward it. If you want to know why I seem like I am losing my marbles, I will let you in on the secret…I am. All parents are crazy. Just wait until puberty and we will all be irrational, emotional nuts together in a grand supernova of internal conflicts! It will be both terrible and glorious!
Where was I?
When the day comes that your Sweet Pea lets go of your hand and forgets to say goodbye, hide those glazed eyes with a prideful smile. Snag a kiss if you can, say have fun be yourself, and you will be there on time.
Then, call me.
(40 years in the making)
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