This was the scene last week, as Alex, Bella, and I waited outside her new school--ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, Bella would specify--for the doors to open on the first day. The first day of kindergarten. Wow. I swear it seems like it's only been about a year since she was standing up for the first time, grinning that toothless grin beneath a nearly-bald head, and all of a sudden, she's wearing a backpack and standing on the sidewalk outside an elementary school, clutching a getting-started-bribe of watermelon pickles for her teacher.
She almost didn't let us go with her that first day. After the school's open house earlier in the week, when the principal was instructing weepy parents on how to leave their weepy children on their first day at school--that they should say goodbye and leave quickly, then go to the school's library for a "Boo-Hoos and Bagels" breakfast, so as not to break down in front of their children or give their children the chance to break down more than they surely were going to anyway--MY daughter leaned over and said, to me, "Um, Mom? I think you can just stop the car in front of the school, and I'll just hop on out and come in by myself, OK?" We had to negotiate for the right to at least walk her in to the classroom ONE TIME. We had to promise not to hang around too long, though, and to do any crying in the library with the other parents.
Once we got to her classroom, Bella wasted no time in cozying up to her new teacher, warming her up with some jokes and giving her a gift that "we made ourselves!"
She had delighted in picking out her own comfortable clothes to wear that morning, remarking more than once that we should give her old private preschool uniforms to "some other poor kid" who had to go to that school. It was heart-warming seeing her so happy and at ease in this new place, and she settled right in to her place, practically giddy to be there.
She went right to work on the project in front of her, promptly ignoring her father and me.
We were able to talk her into one goodbye hug for each of us, thankfully.
She sat back down at her place, and her father and I watched her for several more minutes, waxing sentimental (look, she is our only child, and this is the only time we'll have this experience, so give us a break), until we got this LOOK--the look that plainly said, "Hey, guys? I got this. You can GO, NOW."
So, we went. And despite all the sobbing parents out in the hallway, we held it together. We skipped the whole "Boo Hoos And Bagels" experience. We were proud of the independent, fearless, confident little character we'd somehow produced, and we left her at school with no concern whatsoever for whether she'd be all right, but with considerable pangs of sadness for ourselves, and our own loss of our wee little baby.
And then, outside the front doors of the school, inexplicably, there was a giant anthropomorphized wiener, obviously sent from above to let us know that everything was going to be OKAY. Or sent from Sonic to remind us that hot dogs are tasty. Whatever. A good omen is a good omen. Don't look gift-wieners in the mouth, people.