Children fidgeted on the miniature furniture, a few strained against their parents’ grip, trying to make a dash for the door. Many wept on that first day of kindergarten. Not my daughter. Her perky-pigtails pointy straight up like two exclamation marks over her bright eyes, she comforted her new classmates. Unlike these timid ones, she wanted me to leave so she could get on with this new chapter of her life. Without me. Already, she was in command of the situation, sure of how she might fit in, ready to lead the way.
I was the one who wavered, lingering at the door not quite ready to separate. She offered a quick hug and wet kiss and turned back to reassuring the inconsolable blond boy next to her. I walked down the long hallway and out of the school. In my gut, my aching gut, I knew that in some huge way, she was no longer mine. In my car, I put my forehead on my steering wheel and sobbed.
It wasn’t like this separation business was new to us – she was in full time daycare from the age of two. But kindergarten, her first day in mandated school, felt different. She became part of the education machine that would define her, arguably, in as fundamental a way as me. Bereft and with tears still flowing, I drove away from what would become, her beloved elementary school. Her world without me had begun.
Well, not quite. Waking her up, making breakfast, lunches, homework, studying, play-dates, violin lessons, plays, sports games, concerts — the requirements an endless list of juggling and challenges over the years. Still, I was a stage hand, providing the behind-the-scene assistance for the Molly show. And she was a star throughout the years.
Last week she graduated from high school. Her name in the program followed by real stars marking her achievement. I’m terribly proud of her of course, but I also feel a sense of accomplishment of my own that surprises me. While she is pretty self-motivated, I get to take a little credit, too, don’t I? After all, she might have turned out so differently.
She was only in second grade when her Dad and I told her the reason behind his erratic behavior and our terrible battles. Certainly, this was a young age to learn your father is struggling with drug addiction. Then, just a month shy of her 9th birthday, to know it killed him. After his suicide, Molly and I, with our precious dog, Tetley, forged on with our fierce love, determined to seize joy.
We found that joy and more as our net of love expanded to friends and neighbors who became our family. Then, after a little more than a year, R joined us, bringing support, laughter and more love to our little house. These beloved ones, also get to share credit in steering Molly through this major stage of her life. She gets to move on now, sure of the support, laughter and love of all of us who stand behind her still. We did it — we grew a delightful child into a remarkable adult. And as usual, she is ready for the next stage.