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By Contributing Mama Daphne Biener

School started yesterday, and for the first time I packed not one but two backpacks, brushed out two ponytails, washed two faces and watched my two babies-no-more board a big old school bus.

Kira, ever the big sister, was all business, ushering little sis down the aisle of the rickety yellow vehicle with no seat belts that surely would take the first hill at full speed and launch itself out into the roiling ocean in a mass of molten metal and new sneakers.

Yeah, I know it’s unlikely and yes, I know there’s no ocean out here. Who invited you to throw logic at the twisted irrational games my head loves to play?

I’m sure there is a rational explanation for why school buses don’t have seat belts. On Monday the law mandates that I strap my 30 pounder into a five point harness. Come Tuesday, she marches onto the bus-o-death with a lit cigarette and a beer as she rides off towards launch-time.

Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Maybe it’s just that my science-adverse mind can’t grasp the law of physics that explains why my kids won’t go flying ass-over-lunchbox in the event of an Evel Knievel-style feat en route to school. That’s besides the point though. Unfathomable bus regulations are not my main concern today.

Today my heart aches because, well, to be honest, kindergarten got off to a bit of a rocky start. Acadia did not find it oh so exciting to be a big girl whatsoever. In fact, other than the bus ride, she could not find one positive thing to say about her first day at elementary school. (Ah, I’m starting to understand why seat belts are skipped and the bus ride’s a blast.)

Acadia was ready for kindergarten. She swings like a monkey from the highest bar at the park. She loves to sing. She swims like a fish underwater. She writes her letters and draws her pictures and sets the table and makes her own bed. She does it all, as long as nobody is watching. She hates attention. It has only taken me four years and eight months to learn this about my youngest.

It’s not that I haven’t been clued in. I never peel my eyes off of that little body in motion. And it’s not that she looks so much like her big sister that I assume she’ll be just like her. Could it be that I myself adore the spotlight so much that I cannot conceive of anyone shunning center stage? I don’t know. I hope not.

All I know is that day one after school my tightly wound bundle of nerves had a tummy ache and it took my best cajoling before she finally offered up this cryptic message about why kindergarten was a blazing pot of misery:

“All the grownups kept looking me right in the eye. It wasn’t good.”

Psych majors, your interpretations are welcomed.

She temper-tantrumed herself right to sleep, but I was up all night, trying in vain to devise a way in which I could make it all good. Prove to her that it would be better tomorrow and even better the next day and so on and so on until the day comes when she laughs in disbelief at the story of her first terrible day of school.

This morning I proudly watched as she squared her shoulders and marched onto the bus for day two. She is a strong kid, and I know she’ll be fine. I just wish she didn’t have to be strong just yet. I wish that it was still my job to hold her and fight off her scary stuff. I wish I were the one handling her problems with a kiss and a promise. But I’m not. And I know that finding her own way is just as important as any lesson in counting or phonics will ever be.

Which leaves me sitting here at home, dwelling on the reality that my chickadees are out there in the world armed with little more than their knowledge of the alphabet, a new box of crayons, and a snack packed by mom. And I’m ok with that. Really. It’s just that my tummy kind of hurts.

To read more of Daphne’s work, visit her eco-fabulous blog, A Greener Biener.

9 Responses to my achy breaky heart

  • Tully's Mama says:

    Daphne – I laughed out loud and did shed a tear at the end like Kelcey said I would. I even re-read a couple paragraphs to my husband who found them just as entertaining! This was great.

  • Dsladepi says:

    I sympathize with you, I don’t know how someone does not crave the spotlight, but one thing we know about Cady is that she’s tough. She’ll make it work for her, I have no doubt.

  • Paula says:

    Oh.. the first day of school. If only we could sit in those little desks right next to our children all day- but alas we must let them go. Each night before the first day of school I still get nervous myself (I\\\’m starting my 14th year of teaching this fall). I too ponder the lack of seatbelts in those yellow buses. Thanks for sharing

  • Lanie says:

    Go Acadia! Great post Daph! I had trouble with 1 – I can’t imagine that I will handle kindergarten all that well – can you resend this to me in 4 years? 🙂

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