Just a few weeks ago, my almost 6 year old finally hit the magical 40 pound mark. In her beautiful little mind, this was the equivalent of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Tears of joy literally brimmed on her lashes as I told her that yes, we could finally move her to her high-backed booster just like so many of her other classmates. The 5-point harness, was a thing of her past. In the Kindergarten masses, this is apparently a true right of passage. It took a few days for her to master the fine nuances of the new buckling system, but once she did…..this happened.
It was a Monday morning and as usual, she and my 3 year old tumbled out to the car, bickered a little about who got to get in first, and climbed clumsily into their car seats for the short ride to school. The day was going her way because she managed to buckle herself in on the first try. The pride in her eyes was unmistakable. Now, usually, the 2 minute and 35 second ride to school is filled with chatter about the day, who said what on the playground, and what I packed for her lunch. But today she was quiet, looking thoughtfully out the window. Just before we pulled into the park lot, it happened.
Me: “Yes love?”
Her: “Do you think you could drop me off at the drive-up drop-off today?”
Me: ….Stunned silence…..
Her: “If you don’t have a reason to come in today, you do not need to walk me in. I’ve got it handled.”
Me: …..sad, somewhat hurt, silence…..searching for some reason I need to walk her to class……”Are you sure you can find your way to your classroom?” (I mean…..it’s like all the way across the playground….for sure she would still be wandering around lost come lunch time….)
Her: Following what I am pretty sure was a roll of the eyes and a slightly mocking chuckle “I will be fine. Don’t worry.”
I debated in my head whether I should pretend I didn’t hear her and turn left into the parking lot…after all, I am the mama. Or if I should give my newly minted 40 pounder a chance to exercise just a little bit of independence, and turn right into the slowly snaking drive-up drop-off lane. It took every ounce of mama-strength I have, but I reached up and stopped that helicopter-mom propeller for just a moment…..and turned right. Instantly, she sat up taller in her car seat, started prepping her back pack and water bottle for her vehicle exit debut, and told her little bother to tuck his legs up so that she could get past him because “people would be waiting for her to get out of the car.”
And waiting they were.
When we finally got to that front of the line, the teacher on drop-off duty opened the back door, my little girl unbuckled herself, paused for a painfully awkward driver seat to back seat passenger hug, patted her brother on the leg with a “Bye Buddy” (usually they hug and kiss before she runs into her classroom….), and hopped out the door on her merry way to class. The kind teacher on duty must have sensed this was a first and leaned in my window with a kind smile and said, “We’ll get her where she needs to be….”
With a long line of cars behind me, I had no choice but to drive off slowly, tears full-on streaming down my face, and little brother saying, “Huh. That was different than yesterday.”
Yes buddy…..yes it was.
I felt like I sent my baby girl off to college that morning. Knowing full well she would be fine, (I may or may not have asked my friend who was volunteering in her classroom that day to text me that she did indeed make it to class…..) but struggling with that conflicted mama drama of letting go in just the slightest of ways. I am sure these moments will be plentiful over years to come, but I give myself permission to feel sad. Feel slightly sorry for myself that my babies are growing up too quickly. And even cry a little. But I also must remind myself to feel proud of her accomplishments, no matter how small or trivial they may seem to my adult mind. Compliment her on what a beautiful, independent person she is growing into, inside and out. And to stay in the car. Once in a while. Because sometimes, that is exactly where we need to be.