This is the Real Deal

Last Thursday evening Andy and I piled into a room with lots of other moms and dads. We sat in tiny plastic chairs and nervously looked around at the other folks who uncomfortably positioned and repositioned their bums. Some faces were those of friends, people we have come to know from swim lessons, Saturday morning outings to the Farmer's Market and play dates at the playground. Others were strangers, people who live in our small town whom we've never crossed paths with before. We were all in the room for a common purpose and over the next 12 years, each and every face in the room will be familiar to us, as will the faces of their children. Welcome to kindergarten orientation.

As we listened to the kindergarten staff introduce themselves, I diligently took notes. Purchase: sturdy backpack, lunch bag, sneakers with laces, shirts that don't show off the belly. Bring to registration: birth certificate, proof of residency, kid. I shoulder bumped Andy (it wasn't hard to do since we were all sitting shoulder-to-shoulder) when they warned us not to stay too long during drop-off and when he stealthily pulled out his Blackberry half way through the presentation.

Then they turned down the lights and started the PowerPoint. Each teacher addressed a section from language arts to math and science. Pictures flashed on the screen of children practicing writing the alphabet, sitting in a circle clapping and running around the gym. In the dark, next to all the other anxious and excited parents, it hit me: this is the real deal. This is some serious school and I am about to be the parent of a school-age child.

I looked up at the images of the smiling children but my mind drifted. Four year flashed through my memory: telling Andy the news by giving him baby booties for Valentine's day; the ultrasound; holding her in my arms for the first time; hitting Andy with a diaper and both of us crying the day my mom left us alone with her; learning how to properly wash a little girl after numerous big poops; her toothy smile; watching her eat pasta; her terror and screams when we sang happy birthday to her for the first time; calling and emailing everyone we knew when she took her first steps; realizing she can stick her tongue up her nose; listening to her say mommy; the feeling of her soft skin when she wrapped her chubby little arms around my neck; her first pee pee on the potty; carrying her, football hold, away from numerous stores and playgrounds; all the way to present moment, her big, brown eyes smiling at me and our joking that she is 4 going on 14.

About 2 years ago, my co-worker told me her moment happened when she realized that she and her son were having a real conversation. Not just basic words exchanged and needs being demanded but an actual dialogue. I feel like, because of Charlotte's birth, I missed Caroline's transition from toddler to kid. She went from communicating with me about simple concepts (I'm hungry. I have to go pee.) to complex observations ( If I eat my dinner, I can have dessert.
I'm too tired to wipe after I pee.) She's tall and lanky and cranky and funny, sweet and incredibly caring. She has changed so much in four years and she has changed us. Life before Caroline is fuzzy. It doesn't matter as much to me.

Shortly after we arrived home from orientation I stepped on a small piece of glass. I whined while Andy got me tweezers. Caroline held a flashlight up, shining the light so I could see the tiny shard. I breathed deeply (I don't handle stuff like this well) and pinched the glass with the tweezers. Andy had long walked away. With her free arm, Caroline rubbed my back. She leaned toward my face and asked me, "Do you need your mommy and daddy?"

"Yes, that would be nice," I told her.

"Ok," she said, "Daddy can be your daddy. I can be your mommy."

Comments

I always love your blog posts. I read a lot of blogs these days but yours is still one of my absolute favorites. It's so real and so honest. Although I hate that you sometimes make me cry!

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