Will you hold my hand? Please? Because I don’t think I can do this without you. I am very scared and kinda nervous. It’s a big change. Huge. And I’m not sure I’m gonna like it very much. Will you still be there waiting for me when it’s over? Will you hold my hand at the bus stop? Will everything be okay? Promise me it will. Promise! Pinky-swear!
Okay. I’m ready.
My daughter had her kindergarten screening yesterday. I watched as they snapped her picture, her big hazel eyes watering, her mouth quivering as she was trying to stand up straight and be a big girl. A teacher draped a star-shaped name tag around her neck and guided her off to a room for testing.
I sat in my little chair in the hallway with a couple of other parents. All of us thinking the same thing. I can’t believe it’s time. I’m not ready…I’m not ready…I’m not ready for this!
One of my earliest memories was my own kindergarten screening. It was 1975 and my father brought me. I remember starting to cry and having to take off my glasses the second the teacher asked me to hop across the room. What if I fell down? What if I couldn’t do it? There were bright lights and big adults with clipboards asking me all kinds of questions, the room was noisy and echoed too much. When I had to walk the balance beam, I think I almost passed out. It was a lot of pressure for a little kid. My dad was great though, he kept smiling at me, giving me little hugs to let me know it would be all right, this big transition into school.
Now I sat at my own daughter’s screening and I wondered if my dad had felt that same terrible tug at his heart as I did now.
As my daughter was led away, I was interviewed by another teacher. She asked me if I was familiar with the school. I told her I had an older son who was in third grade. She put her hand on her heart and smiled at me, “Oh, so this must be your last one?” I could only nod. “Oh! It’s so hard! You will cry, trust me. The moment she gets on that bus, you will cry. I know I bawled when my last one left for school. Now he’s in college, left home and his room is empty.” I sighed, fighting back a tear. This wasn’t helping me any.
After an hour and a half I caught a glimpse of my sweet baby girl, down the hall, sitting stoically next to another boy, twirling her little name tag necklace. I kept willing her to turn around and look at me, so I could wave or smile to let her know I was there. Look, Julia! Look at mommy! Mommy’s right here! I thought, as I tried to get her attention, waving at her like an idiot, just another sappy parent on the brink of losing it. She turned slightly and saw me, gave me a quick wave then turned back toward the teacher.
And I was left sitting there alone in the hall, trying to sit up straight, not cry and be a big girl.