You’re crawling up my arm with a glow-in-the-dark dinosaur and I can’t believe the time has come for you to start all-day kindergarten. I remember the first time I held you, kissed you cheeks, and cried as they carried you off to bathe you, weigh you, and put your first diaper on. Hospitals are the first test for us mamas, I guess. We come in groaning with labor pains, sore ankles, and stretch marks from months of lovingly carrying and sustaining you with crackers and ginger ale for breakfast and then the nurses and doctors begin the process of helping you get out. IV’s…monitors…petocin…epidurals…or plain ibuprofen if you’re a glutton for punishment.
I always ask your daddy to leave me and follow you when you’re born. I want to know one of us is there to watch them help you acclimate to this world with their scales, and syringes, and their sudsy bath water. I know you’re safe, but you know. Just in case never hurts.
And then there’s babysitters. They help us learn to let go of control a little and put your well-being into the hands of another for a few hours at a time. (That sounds barbaric when I type that out so I’ll probably never get another babysitter again.) We trial and error our way through teenagers whose mamas have let their children go to take care of another’s and we leave lists on which pacifiers you prefer and which song to sing at nap time and how to basically keep you from feeling like we never left. And that sounds sunnier when I write it that way and by Saturday I’ll be needing a date night, so scratch that. I need babysitters and the village is becoming a nicer concept.
We still text to make sure it’s going okay, and we still get to choose who will watch you, how long we’ll be gone, and whether we’ll let that person see you again, so we kinda sorta still have some control.
Pre-school is the warm-up. We obsess over which program will best suit your needs. The one who offers Chick-Fil-A with music lessons once a week, or the one that has an exhaustive list of character qualities to focus on while listening to classical music as the children paint a replica of Van Gogh. You who do not have children this age think I’m kidding, but we mothers do this. We obsess over these details because we want to know we did every possible thing to ensure our children’s future doesn’t feel like we left them on the hospital scale with no one to see the numbers rise to 7.6 lbs.
The crazy thing is, you loved painting replicas of Van Gogh. (And I never would have come up with that idea, nor taken the time to explain primary colors like your teachers did. Bless them.)
You’re 5 now, but I still want to feel like you need me like I need you. I still want this to be a codependent relationship. We’ll call it “bonded” because that sounds healthier and therapy will be easier down the road, but we all know it when we see it. The mom who calls out “be carefuuuullllll!!!!” 1,485 times at the roller skating rink and the grown woman who has started a new job and calls her mom to remind her of the code to her locker.
You can call me anytime. Anytime, okay.
Yet, I’ve also seen this chasm that happens in children who leave the nest and never felt like they could rely on their parents to begin with. The relationship suffers its way through painful holidays and important, missed events. No one is there to say, “Follow her. She needs you right now.” Or, “Be careful. The world is full of wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Or even, “Hey honey. Just checking to make sure you are doing okay. I’m praying for you this week as you start your new job.”
It’s what good parents do. And I know it seems overbearing, or smothering, or emotionally connected, but you know. It gives children a safe place in a world full of unsafe things and people and events. And maybe, just maybe, we need smothered from time to time. A place we feel known, and loved, and cherished.
Your daddy took you out last night to go fishing, to talk about growing up and making right choices and looking for friends who show the kind of character qualities they emphasized during Van Gogh. He told you about leaders and followers and coming to us with any questions you will inevitably have. He told you of Jesus and broken things and new things and that all will be made right in the end. These truths are just beginning to take root in your heart, but hearing them again is what we need.
As you leave for kindergarten, know that we used to be connected by an umbilical cord and I’ll always feel like you’re part of my body, walking around on tip toes outside of my soul. I know I’ll accidentally drop you off late sometimes; I’ll embarrass you when I kiss the top of your head; and I may have made you pick the dinosaur backpack, instead of the shark one, but know this.
I am your safe place.
And I love you so much it hurts.