05 March 2016
It’s happening again. Waking in a panic with confusion and worry. Becoming overly emotional at commercials and cartoons. Desperately trying to savor, if not record, every blessed moment, as a response to the sensation of impending doom. Psychologists will be too swift to categorize these symptoms as depression or anxiety, while particularly discerning mothers immediately and accurately identify it as kindergarten registration. My fourth and final baby is flapping her fuzzy, little wings with more fervor each day, and there’s nothing I can do in good conscience to prevent her from taking off.
Unlike her older siblings, who all had quiet rocking chairs sitting in the midst of their freshly painted nurseries, when she arrived, this little Twerp slept in a frequently relocated pack-n-play, until we could carve enough time to extract the crib from the attic, and assemble it in a corner of her 7-year-old brother’s messy room. Since we figured she was too small to know the difference, and we wanted to optimize her chances of acceptance by the boy (thus, survival in general), we nixed the pink flowers and frilly dresses, choosing instead whatever he selected, which often ended up being Phillies gear. There she was – our beautiful baby princess, sleeping in a crib that sailed over a sea of muddy soccer cleats and stinky socks, wearing her Chase Utley jersey, all the while being watched over by a foreboding poster of Optimus Prime.
From the first moments, her life has consisted of running from one activity to the next, and though I often feel guilty about the stark contrast between her early childhood and that of her three older siblings, primarily her infrequent opportunities to stay home and play with her toys, I can’t deny that she is better prepared for school than the others were, combined. She’s been on an airplane, she knows what a short stop is, she understands the correlation between homework and success in school, she knows how to “customize” selfies, where the circle gym is located in the high school, and which rows are the prime seating options on a school-bus. She can apply stage make-up, buy her own lunch in a cafeteria and keep time on a snare drum during percussion ensemble rehearsal; when her tiny legs are tired, after a full day of keeping up with much taller people, instead of crying helplessly, she boldly announces, “Okay, right now I need to sit down and relax with an episode of Curious George.” She knows how to speak her mind.
What she doesn’t know is how much I’m going to miss having her beside me all the time, whether snuggling on the frozen bleachers or playing cards on a blanket on the sidelines, having her under my desk, where she plays with figurines and waits for me to finish my work before we take walks, or in line at the food store, where she organizes items on the conveyor belt and offers loud commentary on her observations.
When my three older loves went to kindergarten, I learned how the car line works, what snacks can be eaten in a classroom and how to survive as a homeroom mother. What no experience in the world will help me understand, though, is how to let go of my baby’s hand as she steps out of our yard and into the world. I’ll be a blubbering disaster when she takes flight, and will be praying hard that she soars in the company of protective angels, but the world better brace itself, because ready or not… here she comes!