This week, my oldest daughter heads to kindergarten.
It has been entirely practical to this point — does she have her shots, paperwork? How does drop-off work? When do we need to retrieve her?
Pledge of allegiance.
But I know, I know I’ll have feelings, and they’ll come at an inconvenient time.
This is one of the benefits of middle age.
I’ve learned this about myself.
But where I know to be ready to deal with the emotions attached to my daughter’s eventual flight from the nest, I don’t know how those feelings are going to show up.
I remember my first day of kindergarten so clearly.
That first day, sitting in the cafeteria,
my lunch box holding a piece of processed cheese.
I loved processed cheese,
the individual pieces,
the autonomy of it all.
Vaguely unhealthy, squished up like the coolest putty.
And then I remember the crushing lonely feeling of having something in my lunch that just might make the big kids laugh at me. So I hid it that slice of processed cheese under the table, peeling it from the wrapper piece by piece, and sneaking them into my mouth.
Because they might laugh at me.
And although I still have that feeling, that feeling of shame and fear around the big kids laughing at me, I’ve had enough life behind me to understand its usefulness. That feeling is there to keep me alive.
But she doesn’t know that yet, she still has to learn.
She has to fear them laughing.
She has to decide it doesn’t matter.
She lights the candle in her room and prays
that she can make new friends and
learn to read.
She prays to give up the things that make her a child.
And she goes ahead anyway.
Like we do.