Last Friday, I dropped Emma off at the school she will attend next year. They have kind of a "trial run" where you can take your kids for a couple of hours and they experience a taste of what a typical kindergarten day will be like. She was so excited! When I woke her up that morning she said... " I have to wear these right?", referring to her p.j.'s. You see, when we went to tour the school for the first time a few months ago, they were having pajama day. I guess she thought she would always wear her p.js to school. :) She also said to me, "I guess I'll just sleep in the car". This was the perfect time for me to explain, again, why it was important that she sleep at night and not sneak around playing with her toys.
So, I dropped her off at 8:30. She went with the school secretary with only a little hesitation ( Emma has ALWAYS been my most cautious child). And then I turned around, and walked away. It was easy not to cry; I knew this wasn't the real thing. Besides, I had two squirmy kids in the stroller who were hollering to get out. I ran some errands around town. It was only a couple of hours she would be there, and I didn't want to drive all the way back to BV, just to turn around and come back.
I got done with my errands early and headed to the school. The secretary had told me that she would go to recess the last part of her day. So, I went to the parking lots behind the school, where I could see the playground. I parked there to wait and watch and sip my coffee. I scanned the playground that was swarming with kids. At one point a group ran out of the door. It made me think of when I was little and used to go around stomping on ant hills so I could see them scurry out in a frenzy, wondering what had happened to their home.
Then I saw her. I recognized first her little girl gait. She has a particular walk that is only hers. She runs with a bounce and tosses her hair when she's talking with her friends. It's a trait invisible to anyone but her mother. And as I watched, my eyes filled. I saw that she was just fine. She was swinging and climbing the jungle gym, running with new friends. My mind filled with images of the infant who came into the world with a little caution. Slowly peeking out of the birth canal, and returning to her comfort zone until she was sure she was ready. And when she came she was loud and demanding and the most beautiful thing I had ever laid my eyes on. I was convinced there had never been a baby so beautiful and perfect. Ever.
I saw the baby with chubby thighs, and stick-up hair. With beautiful blue eyes filled with adoration for... her daddy. :)
I saw my two year old who was speaking sentences and recalling stories with shocking accuracy.
The 3 year old who was now a big sister and singing on stage in front of hundreds of people.
And now, all of the sudden... she is a little girl. Independent and beautiful and brilliant.
As I watched, I felt like the ants. I have spent time working and hauling and climbing, to build a safe place for my most precious treasure. And time has come, with it's big, fat foot and squashed my safe place. And my baby ant is eager to begin building her own hill. I felt powerless to protect her. I have spent so much time protecting her from every physical danger I could think of. And I missed a few along the way. Despite my best efforts, she fell and got bruised and scraped. But it always healed, with a little time, a kiss, occasionally a little more. But NOW, NOW she will be out from under my nearly constant watch. I won't be there every minute to catch her, to kiss the bo-bo's.
However, it's not such much those bumps and bruises I'm concerned about. It's the ones on the inside. The ones that aren't so obvious. I am not naive enough to think that she will never experience heartache or ridicule. But my heart aches when I think of it. That there will be kids who make fun of the way she walks,talks, looks, smells, reads,runs etc. I know that she will learn words and phrases and songs that I don't want her to learn. I know that she will have to use her judgement on what is right and what is wrong. I know this. I've always known this day was coming. But I just can't believe it's here. There is so much that I wish I'd done differently. So much I wish I'd said. So much I wish I hadn't said.
I know, that I have to let go of her. I've done it before. I can do it again. I know that only God can truly protect her. Nothing I do can protect her like He will. I KNOW this. I do. Sometimes my heart has a hard time hearing what my head already knows.
I drove around to the front to pick her up. I had to go in since they still weren't in from recess yet. I thought she would be upset that I had come to get her. But She came, with no fuss. She came back to the arms that she was familiar with. Where she knew she was safe.
We took a quick peek at some baby chicks that had JUST come out of their eggs.
And one little egg. With a small hole. This baby chick was taking her time. Pecking away, slowly and... cautiously. Sticking out only the tip of her beak, as if to get a small whiff of the outside world before she returned to the warm womb.
I looked at my little chick, watching with curiosity and eagerness. I watched as she handled the other baby chicks with a tenderness that touched my heart. She looked up at me with her big, blue eyes, and smiled. "They're so precious", she says to me. " Yes, they are. It's amazing isn't it?"
And with one last glance over my shoulder at the baby chick still pecking ever so carefully at her shell, we turn and walk out.
... But I didn't cry.... cause I know this isn't even the real thing.....