Monday, September 18, 2006
Whew! As Katie’s first day of preschool (real preschool, where Mommy drops her off for a couple of hours two times a week) was looming, I was growing more and more anxious about what that first morning would be like. I had visions of her clinging to my pantleg as I drug my foot across the threshold, crying “No Mommy, don’t go”. I had visions of barely making it to my car, fumbling for my keys (yeah, I lock my car in the preschool parking lot, even though it is technically a home out in the country) and collapsing my head on the steering wheel in a fit of tears because I was so sad to have my littlest off at school without me. I had a picture in my head of hearing her wails in the classroom as I waited outside for it to stop. Thankfully, my knack for over-thinking and over-worrying did not become a reality and my thoughts were not manifested into real life scenes on that first day.
Katie was talking about her “new” school for days before her official first day. After hearing all about her brother’s first days at school (they started 3 days before her), she seemed ready to contribute her own stories to their conversations and was excited and full of anticipation on that morning.
She admired her outfit in the mirror, posed with the dog for the traditional first-day-of-school photos and only insisted on bringing a small toy cowboy with her in the car.
When we arrived at the school, she was a little shy, but warmed up a bit as we went through the daily routine of hanging up her coat, finding her cubby and nametag and flipping her picture over on the chart to announce to the class that she was present. On to the hand washing and then back out into the classroom we went, accomplishing each of these tasks like we’d done it a hundred times before. I was a little sad about that, her willingness and easiness with the whole situation.
I mean, where was my needy, mommy-magnet toddler?
What happened to my baby?
She was replaced with a confident, self-assured and calm little girl who sat down at the art table with an assistant, kissed her Mom goodbye and picked up a glue stick.
I took this as my cue to high-tail it out of there before she had time to digest the emotions of several older, seasoned preschoolers around her who were begging their parents to stay, sniffling sad little tears and clinging to their Mommy’s pantlegs.
I made it out the door, no kiddo stuck to my foot. No screams of “Mommy don’t go” trailing behind me.
I made it to the car, opened (unlocked) the door and stared at the steering wheel, willing the tears to come. They did not. Instead, I turned OFF the children’s music playing a loud version of “Puff the Magic Dragon” (Katie’s choice for the ride to school) and turned ON my favorite radio station (had I been more prepared, I would’ve chosen the music for my first day, okay 2 hours, of freedom in 3 years, and had something appropriately rebellious and loud to listen to – but that adult radio station would do nicely).
What to do, what to do? I asked myself.
Target, the perfect destination for a solo Mommy.
Selecting the red plastic cart without needing to wipe it down with hand sanitizer felt liberating. The simplicity of tossing my purse in the child-seating area without buckling in a squirming toddler, without stopping to get a small bag of popcorn and an Icee, was freeing.
I was dealing well with my new-found freedom as I cruised up and down the aisles, smiling at the other childless Mommies who were strolling along with their eyes glazed over, a sense of calm enveloping all of us as we relished in the stillness of the store. Free to look at whatever we wanted and not be interrupted, a luxury long forgotten but quickly being discovered again. And then it hit me, like a ton of bricks.
I had forgotten my cell phone.
Party’s over. Forget that fun, coffee-drinking, shopping-filled morning that I had surrendered to, I was in full panic-mode.
What if she needs me?
What if she gets hurt and her teachers are trying to call me?
What if there is an earthquake?
I quickly paid for my purchases (not amounting to much since I’d only been there for 5 minutes) and drove as fast as I could (without breaking the law) home. I located my cell phone, picked it up and checked the “missed calls”. None. Whew. I picked up our land-line phone and checked the voicemail “1 new message”, my heart raced. Not the preschool, just a friend. Whew.
I watched the clock with the anticipation of the first man stepping out onto the moon, waiting for it to be time to pick Katie up.
And then, when I saw her riding the trike with her new friends and her delighted face when I called to her, I choked back the tears.
“Did you have fun?”
“Yes Mommy” she said, squeezing my neck harder than usual.
Posted by carrie