How much we want to spare our children pain of any kind. Particularly the kind we pass on unwillingly, through our fierce DNA. Our buck teeth and our bad noses, our ineptitude for spelling, our fears. When we see those characteristics, the ones we thought we fixed years ago through braces or spellcheck, therapy or denial, there they are on the sweet faces of our little ones, staring back at us.
Nah nah nah nah na! They shout right at us. You thought you got rid of us, but we’re back and it’s worse this time. It’s not your overbite or fear of heights, it’s your kid’s.
It’s your daughter’s. Your son’s. Your baby’s.
The very person you tried to be your best for. The one you read fifteen books on before they arrived. For whom you bought eleven different types of pacifiers, even though you were against pacifiers. The one you stayed up with all night for a week straight because you were afraid that nose cold might actually be pneumonia, or worse.
Very early on, too early, it’s apparent that none of this preparation, this excess of what Joan Didion calls magical thinking where you worry about things so they can be checked off knowing that the pre-worrying has cancelled them out, none of this is really worth much at all. Still you end up, like me, your brand new kindergartner collapsed in your arms like a toddler, wailing and begging you not to leave.
Because for her change is oh so very hard.
And because really, she is on the shy side.
And, truth be told, the ham that she is, the singer and dancer and joker, has to feel completely comfortable in her surroundings to be free to be those things. Without that safety net firmly underneath her, she is so very afraid in her five-year old skin, the one with the purest of hearts inside.
And then I remember, oh yeah, I was like that. I suppose, for all intents and purposes, I still am.
Not good with change.
On the shy side.
Need my safety net to be the joker, the goofball I can be.
Oh yeah. Like my thighs and my curls, I have also given my sweet Reese what I forgot somehow I had: my fear.
It lasted for about the first week and instead of her beautiful brown eyes rimmed in blue, I saw my girl simply glazed over, somewhere else completely. Reese, even in this state, collects friends like I collect pet hair: in large amounts and completely without intent. Other people, adults and children alike, are simply drawn to her, like a vivid painting or musical performance: the pureness of her, the openness of her heart draws you in like a moth to the light.
She has found her feet once again, her net finally feeling in place I suppose, and today when I picked her up from school she announced this was the fourth day in a row “she didn’t even cry.” She had a field trip and held her Dad’s hand the whole time. But Chris reported that several times during the excursion kids would come up to her and take her by the hand, not really going anywhere, but not needing to either, just locked together for a moment or two.
As we were leaving a couple of kids were shouting “Bye, Reese!” to her and she looked back over her shoulder like the gorgeous teenager she will be, hair blowing behind her, and waved to them. I wanted for all the world to freeze that moment for the baby book, for the history books, for myself, to remind us all that we can overcome our stumbling blocks, again and again and again. And seeing her today, vaulting over the one we share felt a lot like flying.