This was the summer before Kindergarten. The last summer, I had my “baby.” We had been getting ready emotionally and physically for the big transition with preschool graduation, incoming Kindergarten meet-ups, and our very first back-to-school shopping experience. Although part of me was so excited not to have to pay for daycare, part of me was nostalgic, even a little sad.
My baby was growing up before my eyes.
This summer before Kindergarten made me a little more observant and mindful. Yes, there were meltdowns from going to bed too late, an increased willfulness to test boundaries, and frequent fighting with her brother. But there were also moments of playfulness, joy, and all things magical and child-like.
There were moments where I couldn’t help but stare at her longer.
Observe her features a little closer, stare at those long lashes and bright eyes, study her interactions with new and potential peers, and longingly look through old photos and video clips of her as a baby. Where had the time gone? How had it been nearly five years with her here on this Earth, with her by my side?
She’s my first baby. She made me a mother. This was the summer I noticed how big she had gotten. This was the summer I noticed how difficult it was to carry her in my arms.
She didn’t fit around my hip like she used to. I couldn’t carry her with the ease I once did. There she was: My “big” little girl. My baby.
This was the summer I noticed her asking, “Mommy, will you hold me” with greater frequency. And this summer, I noticed myself saying, “No, honey. You’re too big for me to carry.”
I’m not sure if she was asking more or just being more aware of the added load. Often she would let out a sigh, a pout, or an “Awwww” and wave her arms like a rag doll. Sometimes she would give me a quick hug. But she kept asking. And I realized I kept declining.
And as I became aware of this “overnight” change, I felt bad.
So when I didn’t have three bags or her younger brother to juggle, I would scoop her up in both arms and walk with her. I would carry her for a few minutes and place her back down as I began to feel her weight pull on my arms.
And a week before the new school year started, we had a rare hour together, just her and I. No brother. No daddy. Just the two of us. A time we call “special time.” And in between us building with her LEGOs, I ask her excitedly, “So what are you most excited about in Kindergarten?” She thought for a second and responded, “Nothing.”
Her response took me by surprise. I looked over at her and said, “Nothing? Why nothing?” She continued to play with her Legos and said, “Because I don’t want to get bigger. Because then you can’t hold me.” Her response stung a little. My heart melted and dropped all at once. She noticed the change. She was apprehensive about this whole new journey. She still wanted to be my baby.
It was bittersweet for both of us.
As I wrapped my arms around her and planted a kiss on her nose, I said, “You’ll always be my baby.” Still yearning for an answer that made me feel better, I continued: “Kindergarten is going to be exciting. What are you looking forward to the most?” She looked up from her Legos with her big smile and little dimples, “My Trolls backpack!” I smiled back.
I guess she and I both have to be ready.
The time is here. This is a new experience for both of us. It’s a little scary. It’s a little bittersweet. It’s a step in getting older and needing each other less.