I can write about this now, two weeks out from the emotional start of Kindergarten, with a clearer head. I typed something with tears welling up last week but it was a mess and I’m so glad I just put it away.
Last Tuesday was Abigail’s first day of school. We were as ready as we could be, outfit picked, lunch packed, forms signed. Not yet in our new house we made the forty minute drive to the bus stop. I don’t even remember what we talked about apart from you saying, “I’m going to miss you, Mommy.”
We made it to the bus stop in plenty of time but then quite suddenly the biggest bus I had ever seen pulled up. You asked me, “Is this where I go?” And I said yes and I love you and watched your enormous book bag get on that enormous bus and all I could think of was how very small you seemed.
Driving back to my parents’ house, I wondered what you were doing. Were you overwhelmed? Scared? Nervous? Excited? Happy? Would there be a friend to talk to at lunch? Would there be math?
Yes, that’s what I always worried about at the start of a new year: friends at lunch and math problems.
Math was never a strength of mine. I earned my first “C” at the ripe old age of 7 struggling with counting coins and reading clocks. I was the kid who counted on her fingers under the desk, who dreaded the walk up to the board to work a problem, who once forgot to put the negative sign in the quadratic equation and missed every quiz question, who somehow passed college calculus and physics…well, the physics class was on a heavy curve but that’s beside the point.
It wasn’t all bad. I could do anything I put my mind to on my graphing calculator!
What was so hard about math for me? I don’t know. Maybe I wasn’t ready, maybe I didn’t learn math the way it was taught back then, and maybe I just daydreamed a lot.
But the addition of two girls to my life was the best bit of math ever. Sure, we subtracted a lot of sleep and we only had a fraction of free time, but it wasn’t so hard because there was just so much love and newness. We had beastly moments of course, sometimes a problem, but never unsolvable.
Having a baby is hard work. It may be equally hard to put that same baby on a supersized school bus and send them off to Kindergarten. You see, you are in the midst of an awesome addition problem. A new school, a new teacher, new friends – new experiences that just open your world up so much bigger than it ever has been before. Me? I’m facing a subtraction problem and well, I’m struggling a little bit. I’m like a kid with a big knot in her stomach and a shaky hand walking up to the board. How will I know at every minute of every day that you are okay? I won’t?! That’s just terrible.
And you know what? These last couple of weeks haven’t always been perfect. The first afternoon the bus was 45 minutes late and you got off with tears in your eyes proclaiming that “riding the bus isn’t my style” and you were never going to do that again. Well, you got right back on the next day and the next day and the next day and you’re doing it. It’s okay! A few nights ago you told me that a kid was a “little mean” to you at school, but the next day you were fine – so we moved on.
A few weeks ago I was ready to conclude that yes, addition is easier than subtraction. It seemed that adding Kindergarten to your life was an infinitely easier task than dealing with the gaping hole that it had left in mine. But it isn’t so. Both things require time to think, a pink pearl eraser, or maybe the chance to just crumble up the whole darn thing and start over. But that’s the great thing about math – there’s a solution.
I want it all for you, oh tiny one with the giant backpack. Take it all in, the excitement and wonder, the laughing and making friends, the little hurts and disappointments and struggles. I know you can do this. You are ready. It is going to be both wonderful and hard. But we will solve it, you will solve it. It all adds up to growing up.
I love you. Tell me everything, okay?