The night before my daughter’s first day of school has become the coolest evening of the year for me.
She’ll be in second grade tomorrow. Two years ago, this night was sleepless, stressful and comparable to experiencing a death in the family in terms of the emotion it conjured. She was going to real school – kindergarten – not some daycare perfectly fine with me keeping her out whenever I wanted so we could have the day together.
It felt like the end of something.
Now, the first day of school feels like the beginning of something. “Could be something wonderful,” I wrote in a card she’ll read in the morning. “Could be something terrible. It’s going to be whatever you make it.”
I learned that as it applies to my daughter halfway through her second year of school. Everything depends on mindset.
Her bag is packed. Her clothes are ready to go. Her nails are painted. Her lunch is waiting in the fridge. Bedtime was 8:15 p.m.
She is ready to go.
While tonight involved much attention to detail, changing of routine and remembering to fill out forms for the school, the week before was when I really earned my keep as a parent.
“What if my teacher is mean?”
“What if no one likes me?”
“What if I don’t like it?”
Questions, questions, questions. They began when the “you know, not much longer ’til school starts” talks infiltrated daily conversation and continued this evening as I lay in bed with Kalista.
Her primary concern was with her teacher. A third-grader at daycare said last week Kalista’s teacher was mean. I finally told her tonight I’d heard her teacher was nice to the students who weren’t jerks.
(I mean, it’s probably true.)
“Well, that makes sense,” Kalista said. “She might have been mean to (friend’s name) because (friend’s name) was a jerk.”
We agreed that her best course of action was to not be a jerk if she didn’t want her teacher to be mean. It seemed like common sense to me – something I learned long ago. Kalista considered it a valuable nugget of knowledge she’d never before considered.
She went to sleep smiling, “excited” for her first day, she said as I left her room.
THERE ARE MOMENTS when I am hard on myself – just as hard as anyone else gets on his or herself, I reckon – for not doing enough with my time, my career, my life. Tonight did not include one of these moments.
For as much as “shiny” things matter, as often as we use them to measure our success, as frequently as they make us feel like we’re failing, they cannot compare to the sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing your child is complete.
My accolades, rewards and recognitions for progress in furthering manmade institutions have been nice, but I didn’t start furthering my life until I began raising Kalista.
That’s something I’ve only recently come to realize – and that’s why nights like tonight, when I know I’ve done something truly wonderful for her, are so damn cool.