Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

First Day

September 14, 2010

Driving my daughter to her first full day (which is to say, half-day) of school, my brain plays the Steven Stills song on repeat.

Tuesday morning… What have you got to lose?

And I speak one line out loud, like a mantra:

I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are…

As the road unfurls before me, I’m flashing back through her short life, thinking of all of the shaping I’ve done for good and for ill.  Feeling a bit shocked at the quick passage of time, of the missed opportunities to mold her and to instill confidence in her budding sense of self.  But mostly, meditating on the memory of yesterday, when I took her to a one-hour open house in her classroom.  An ostensible opportunity for her to meet her teachers and get comfortable with the classroom and become more familiar with the morning routine.  But even more, I realized as I sat there, a chance for me to sit with the new reality that her mother and I are no longer the sole shaping forces in her life.  A chance for me to start to unplug that auto-response which has me constantly monitoring her and checking on her whereabouts and behavior and propriety and potential slights to other children.  Starting today, I’m eyes-off and trusting that she and others will help her become an increasingly independent and responsible interactor with the world.

A poor photo by a harried father. Note Ella's new totem, the brown sweater.

By the time we get to the school, her tears and her anxiety have mostly passed, and she’s pumping me for information about when Daddy went to preschool.  Then we march up to the building to take the ubiquitous photos, and then take our place in the line in the hallway.  She stage-whispers that the girl in front of us “has curly hair, just like me!”, and Claire’s mother and I broker the shy introductions.  Until the line marches toward the door, and Mrs. Mainieri remembers her name and Ella squeals and jumps up and down before running through the door into her future.

I’m squeezing the suddenly small Luci extra-tight as we leave the building, pledging myself to her anew and excited for the hours that school will provide for us to relate more directly.  As we walk through the doorway, I shift to the right to allow another family to enter, and soundly smack her head into the door frame.  Her cry, and my repeated apology, and her head nestled into my neck, rang out as a kind of confession and absolution.  Lord, have mercy on us parents.  And Lord, have mercy on our kids.  As we state our benediction,

I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are…

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