By: Amber Leventry
Parenting is such a weird thing. It doesn’t make much sense to those who never want to become parents and it doesn’t make much more sense to those of us who are parents. The gut feeling that lets us know we are destined to be called mom or dad is really the only instruction we get that that is valuable. Sure, there are books and stories from those who did this before and plenty of advice from professionals, but the tools that have helped me the most are the ones not taught. The tugs and rips of emotions are what I have guiding me through. They let me know when something doesn’t feel right or when things are fine. The unsettled feelings in the middle tell me when things are changing.
My daughter is changing. We are only two weeks into kindergarten and nothing drastic has happened, but now that she has been pulled away from the comfort of a two classroom preschool, I can see it. Her body is growing longer and leaner, developing muscles from a summer filled with cartwheels, swimming, and monkey bars. The two freckles on her cheeks, one under each eye, now decorate a kid’s face, not a baby’s. Her vocabulary, common sense, and skepticism are growing. Her desire to hold my hand as we walk to school is fading.
I am one of the few parents in my daughter’s class who still walk their child in and get them settled. I do it more for me than her at this point. She knows the routine by now. She’s confident and smart. There is little worry that her day won’t be anything but good. But I still take the extra two minutes to hang up her backpack, watch her sign her name and settle into a seat before I hug her and leave. She’s an independent kid and soon I will give her more freedom to do the things she doesn’t need me to do.
First I need to feel more settled; I need these new feelings to tell me things are going to be fine. I don’t feel like my daughter is slipping away from me, rather she is slipping into something and someone new. This is not bad change, just change. Eva is our first born, our first daughter. She is the one who made me and my partner parents for the first time. For each new thing she does, we do too. Her firsts are just as much ours as hers. And the unknowing of each new thing is heavy and nerve-racking. Just when we think we know a bit about parenting, she grows. She changes.
We have placed solid ground under her feet and have surrounded her with good people, but I lose a bit of control each year. Her world offers her more choices now. The playground equipment is bigger. School expectations are greater. The number of kids and words and feelings she is exposed to is so much more than I know how to filter for myself, let alone help her filter. Stuffies and blankets are replaced with a sense of self that provides the security she needs. Time to explore the world through play and the outdoors is shortened and filled in with more structure and accountability. The hardest part is not that Eva isn’t ready, it’s that she is.
Every day she comes home and is ready to tell me about what she has learned. She tells me about what happened in the cafeteria and about the already rumored stories of what will happen if you have to go to the principal’s office. There is an edge to my baby girl, a bit of lost innocence that clashes with her Paw Patrol backpack. And I am sitting right in the middle of it as I watch her run ahead of me to get to school, to eye the third graders hanging out at the picnic table, to laugh at the boy who likes to get her attention.
I saw the freckles on her cheeks dance when she stood on the playground, leaning against a pole and laughing as the boy acted goofy just for her. I realized then and there that someone is going to fall in love with those freckles, and someday they will be stained with tears from her own bouts of falling in love. They will be the never changing points on a girl who will make me experience so much change as she grows.
Eva is becoming exactly who I have always wanted her to become. It’s just so unsettling. Parenting is such a weird thing. It doesn’t make much sense to those who never want to become parents and it doesn’t make much more sense to those of us who are parents. But I think it’s going to be fine.
Photo credit: Molly O. Photography