Aug 16 2018

This Morning, When You Left for Kindergarten

Here is what I see when I look at you: a squishy belly tethered to me by a miraculous cord. Doll-sized newborn diapers, still somehow too big. Wrinkled fists and rocking chairs and receiving blankets. Peach-fuzz hair like velvet against my cheek.

Where has the time gone? This summer, we stored another bin of clothes you outgrew overnight. We trimmed off the last of your white-blond curls, watched the fine ends fall to the floor, swept part of your remaining infancy away. The child who stepped down from that chair suddenly had hair the color of sand.

We’ve been through this before, you and I — packing lunches, first-day photos, waiting in a drop-off line — but today, something is different. This feels like the official end of your babyhood and the official beginning of something else, something long and important and transformative, a thing that will shape you while I am not in the room. All I can do from this distance is trust.

Preschool meant three days a week and home in time for nap. It meant family vacations unfettered by a class schedule and playtime instead of homework. You were missing from our home only minimally, just enough to teach you that you would be okay without me there. Today, the house is somehow a different kind of empty.

I hope your teacher is nurturing and patient, that she remembers you are someone’s most important thing. I hope you make her job easier rather than harder. I hope people will be kind to you, though I also know — absolutely, unequivocally — this will not always be true. But even more: I hope that when a classmate is sad or alone or afraid, you will be the one to sit beside her.

I hope you’ll never lose your love of learning — that all the standards and drilling and testing will not interfere with your inquisitiveness, with the wide-eyed way you crave knowledge: everything from how a vegetable grows in the garden to what makes the ocean salty to why grown-ups don’t celebrate half-birthdays. Please cling to your curiosity with both hands and your whole heart.

I hope your new environment will broaden the way you see the world, but not corrupt it. There is such innocence in your questions and observations, such heartbreaking earnestness, held tenderly together by threads that will soon begin to snap one by one.

This morning, you walked forward, toward your future, and I drove away. You don’t yet know the story that is prepared to unfold before you, but I can predict a few likely pages — I’ve been there, as a student and a teacher. There will be so many lessons, in academia and in life, and I am excited and terrified and nostalgic and hopeful to watch you fill in all of those blank chapters.

We’ll settle into a routine soon enough. Mornings like these will become commonplace, predictable, sometimes frustrating. And I know you won’t be wholly changed when you return this afternoon, but one day I will blink and you will emerge from those very same doors at a saunter, a fifth-grader ready for middle school. One day I will ask, “How did it go?” and you may not be bursting to tell me.

But this morning, you waved excitedly, smiled as you bounded away. I cried for the confounding passage of time.

See you soon, baby. Can’t wait to hear all about this beautiful beginning.

About Melissa

Melissa is a SAG-AFTRA actress and former high school teacher from Michigan who (reluctantly) moved across the country when she was six months pregnant. She is the winner of the SmokeLong Quarterly Grand Micro Contest and a past winner of the Breakwater Review Fiction Prize (selected by Susanna Kaysen, author of Girl, Interrupted), the F(r)iction flash fiction competition, and The Writer's inaugural personal essay contest, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, The Greensboro Review, New Ohio Review, HuffPost, Scary Mommy, and The Boston Globe Magazine, among others. She has been shortlisted for both the Bridport Prize and the Bath Flash Fiction Award and was recently selected for The Best Small Fictions and the Wigleaf Top 50. Melissa is represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

4 comments on “This Morning, When You Left for Kindergarten

  1. You speak the truth sister! And, you do it so eloquently. These days never get easier, but you become a little tougher after you’ve accumulated a few under your belt. All of these amazing qualities you highlight in your little one, are because you have nurtured and watered the curiosity, the questions, the wonderment. Hang tough Momma!

  2. This. I’m forwarding to my daughter-in-law to ponder as she prepares to send my grandson, Liam off to kindergarten this year. I have these bittersweet memories of sending my own little boys off to kindergarten and thinking they were really growing up so fast and further away from me. Many, many firsts and lasts later, I am blessed to see they turned out okay. And so did I. Love ya! ❤️

  3. I love your style of writing. Your article recalls my many memories of love shared while raising three children, followed by observing seven grandchildren become adults and now I have the joy of welcoming the great-grandchildren who are creating their childhood memories to recall in their future adult years.

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