In the days leading up to your first child starting kindergarten, there are rituals that serve dual and somewhat contradictory purposes – first of getting you off your ass, and then having it handed to you, at unexpected moments, and with a dose of your heart as a side dish. The former category of tasks started some weeks ago, when Devan and I were ensconced on Cape Cod, spending idle time and pricey hours buying her a fall wardrobe of dresses with just the right amount of twirly-ness. It continued last week, when I took both Devan and Kian to buy shoes. If you want to spend, in the fiscal and emotional departments, just take two small kids shoe shopping. It wasn’t so much the clerk’s measurement of my ample son – confirming that his sausage casing feet require the rare “double wide” shoe size – but the shoes for Devan, emerging from impossible amounts of tissue in an even more impossible size, that stopped me short of breath. They looked like boats – sequined, by turns illuminated, or patent leather, or just sublimely pink boats. Yet into those boats went her five year old foot. And it fit.
Maybe it took the good people of Stride Rite to send me a sign: pay up, and get with the program.
The tasks are, in fact, largely finished. There was the lengthy public school supply list, most of which could be procured at the grocery store, the remainder of which turned into a scavenger hunt through stores that seemed very likely to sell, e.g., a clipboard, but in fact, do not. To be honest, I relished shopping for every last item on that list. Give a person trying to fend off heartache a long list of busy-making chores, and she will love you forever. I can’t grieve over this, I’m still short of glue sticks!
But long before that, there were the forms – so many, many forms – from the dutiful repetition of basic bio-data about our family, to the selection of emergency contacts, to the ten dollar checks written to the pediatrician, the dentist, that they might fill out checklists to confirm that – at least on some clinical, measurable level of potential f—-up – we’ve done what we were supposed to do. In this humbling and anarchical business of being a parent, I dare say they could charge a multiple of that fee for meting out one precious dose of validation.
We have attended the information sessions, the open houses, the pre-meet and greet to the meet and greets. It’s all done, except for filling her lunch box early tomorrow. She’s asleep and – as she ever has been – undaunted, unconcerned, unwilling to reveal her final wardrobe choice for the First Day. The best I got was, “Mommy, I promise you, it’s one of your favorites.” It’s hard not to feel managed out of a job, at least in some part. But if I’m honest, part of that job was the bewilderment of meeting a girl who was almost nothing like me. A big part of that job was getting over the notion of how you always thought you’d feel with your baby, when that baby happened to pick up the somewhat alarming habit of wailing her head against hard surfaces from the age of 16 months. Another big part of that job was waking up and facing a day of work after nights of ungodly wails as that baby ripped through three Tots In Mind crib tents – Andy Dufresne style – but without the sunny promise of Zihuatanejo, which Andy promised Red was a warm place with no memory. At least for us, a very big part of that job was believing that when the days felt too long, the force of her will unmanageable, that eventually it was going to get easier.
Now it’s so much easier. What a ridiculous moment to hurt, but I do.
If you’re looking avoid emotional pile-on, the days leading up to your child starting kindergarten are also not a wise time to sell all the stuff in your garage. But for reasons not worthy of digression, this week saw our foray onto Craig’s List. For sale, and at a bargain price I should add, is the double stroller in which Devan and her best friend Leah first saw the world outside as small babies, pushed through the streets of Washington by the beloved Miss Freddie. There is also the rainforest jumparoo, which went from Devan, who loved its loud, bright, chaotic action, to Jonah, who felt the same, and back to Kian, who rejected it outright. There is the snap n’ go base, universal to any car seat, which was purchased last night by a very sweet couple from Mount Pleasant whose baby is set to arrive on October 3.
Then there is the armoire, which sold tonight to Hilary from Woodley Park. Its multiple incarnations included housing what we all used to call “flat screen” TV’s, which were roughly 35 inches deep, first in Amit’s first DC apartment, then his first condo, and then our condo (which, for the official record, Amit did not move into until we were legally married). Then it came to our first house, and I can’t remember where we originally put it. But I have a photograph that I treasure of Amit and our friend Tom moving it upstairs to our second floor, having to take it outside amidst a snowfall because various door frames were too narrow. Up it went to what became our nursery, and I was fully pregnant, and we needed a place for the impossibly small and beautiful little clothes that this idea of a girl named Devan was going to wear. To cover the big hole cut into the back, where cable and VCR cords once needed to protrude, I bought a piece of lavender silk fabric at one of DC’s last fabric shops on K Street. I used a staple gun to put it in, and then I installed a metal rod across the inside cavity. I remember the surge of joy as I hung all the clothes lovingly washed in Dreft, and then I sat in our new glider and thought about the girl she would be.
But like every parent, if I have learned a single thing, it is to give way to the girl she is. And that girl is fearless, and proud, and looks nothing like me, and loves me despite every misstep I could name if I had a year of days to do nothing else. That girl climbs door frames like a spider. She wears size 11 1/2 shoes. She knows a few too many Katy Perry songs, but delights her father by singing along to some Foo Fighters. She drinks only seltzer water and eats frozen waffles only if they remain frozen. She is bewildering, and beautiful, and there is not a force on this earth or any other planet that stands a chance against her certain triumph.
She’s also in kindergarten.