A slight nudge toward the edge of the nest

Last month we took Mary Virginia to kindergarten registration. Everyone told me that the second kid would be easier, but it was exactly like last year with David. I was just as emotional, just as uneasy, just as feeling like I was holding my dear baby over a cliff (dangling her above the outstretched arms of qualified, caring educators, of course).

The only difference was that this year Thomas wasn’t strapped into a stroller, so I had to leave the registration table a few times to retrieve him from a school-wide scavenger hunt that was not happening.

This milestone feels different and new because Mary Virginia and David are incredibly different. She’s more sensitive, an observer, and cautious.

Sending her to kindergarten makes me uniquely trepidatious because Mary always likes to be near me. When we’re home she needs me in her line of vision 100% of the time. When we’re at a playground, she checks in often.

I’m not always good at being her safe place. In fact, I’m usually bad. I’m impatient, distracted, I need space; I fail at least 85 percent of the time.

As kindergarten gets closer, I’ve worried about Mary Virginia. I worry about her academic readiness, I worry about whether she’ll eat lunch, I worry about interactions with her peers. But mostly I’m worried about her being away from me for most of the day. How will she handle that? I am, after all, her safe place.

A few weeks ago, Mary Virginia went on a play date without me. It was with a close friend from preschool whose mom is a good friend of mine. There was nothing at all to worry about, but I still worried. Would she be ok? Would she speak up if she needed something? If she had to go potty? Or needed a snack? What if she felt uncomfortable and wanted to come home?

Logically, I knew that none of my fears were warranted. She would have a great time and if anything happened, the mom would take care of it. But still I worried. Since I didn’t have any legitimate misgivings, while Mary Virginia was climbing into my friend’s van, I blurted out, “I’m worried about Mary Virginia. I’m worried she’s not going to eat. She’s very picky!”

My friend smiled, “Ok. We’ll find something she likes.”

Kindergarten has been like that, too. At registration I grabbed Mary Virginia’s hand to reassure her when we walked into the building, and she confidently wriggled free. The kids do one-on-one readiness testing with a teacher, and I’d prepped her for it, worried that she wouldn’t want to leave with a stranger. But when the time came, I watched amazed as she walked away without hesitation.

I thought this relationship was one-sided. I thought that she had been seeking comfort in me and that I was reassuring her while also guiding her to independence. I had no idea how comfortable I’ve become in the role of protector. With changes on the horizon, perhaps the first step is mine, stepping back.

We’re still figuring this out.

On kindergarten registration day, lots of my friends posted pictures of their kids with captions like, “Ready or not, here we come, kindergarten!”

That tone was so different than mine. I was much more like, “We aren’t ready. But we’re coming because we have to!”

I want to change that. We’ll toe the starting line, with confidence and determination. I’m always worried and nervous about Mary Virginia being worried and nervous, I need to change my attitude.

Kindergarten, you probably aren’t ready, but WE ARE. There is a smart, sensitive, creative, thoughtful, phenomenal girl coming your way. You better get ready.

 

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