She’s my best girl and I’m her favorite mommy, and yesterday, with her backpack on her back and her tummy a little fluttery, she told me she was too big to hold my hand. I took it with good grace, I guess. We were walking into her new school to meet her new teacher and leave her new folders and pencils and glue in her new desk, and it’s only natural that she would look around at all those other kids and notice that none of them– except a few tiny ones– were holding their mom’s hands.
Growing up is natural and good and not a tragedy. But man, there are times when it gut-punches a mom who has been privileged to keep her baby little just a little big longer.
We made our slightly confused way into the labyrinth of our daughter’s new school. It’s all new and different for us; she’s the only third grader whose mom feels like she’s at Kindergarten orientation. We find her classroom, and her desk is right there in a cluster of three, with her name, like a million other third graders’ names, written neatly on a tag at the top. We meet her teacher.
She is a little older than me– her youngest is in my oldest’s class– and she’s been teaching for years. She is kind but not gushy, and she seems willing to try to put us at ease without being willing to baby us– we are not, after all, first-time school parents, bringing their tiny five-year-old in for her first year of school.
Except we are. Somehow I manage not to fling myself on this poor woman’s neck in a weepy entreaty to please love my daughter and be patient with her and forgive me if I hate her just a tiny little bit for taking the place of teacher in my little girl’s life.
On the way out of the elementary side of the building and into the secondary side to get a locker and a laptop for my oldest, at least three different people tell my daughter that her new teacher is wonderful. “She’s the best,” one lady says. You don’t have to tell G twice. She’s already a little bit smitten.
She has been so nervous, but now she is just a bouncy little ball of thrill and excitement. She can’t wait for Wednesday, can’t wait to sit at her desk across from a girl whose first name is my daughter’s middle name. She can’t wait to find out what it’s like to ride the bus, eat in the cafeteria, hang her backpack up on the special hook just for her. She can’t wait to let Mrs. K teach her.
And I’m really glad, y’all. Really, really glad, because this whole transition is proving hard enough on this mama without my daughter being a huge mess of I-don’t-want-to-go-ness.
But she didn’t want to hold my hand. And she told me, in a whispery nervous way, that she thought maybe Mrs. K was the best teacher, and not me, even though she loved me very much.
I’ll always be her favorite mommy, I guess, but I think I’ve been supplanted as her favorite teacher.
Trusting God’s good hand as my kids grow is a hard and beautiful thing, and right now it’s hard more than beautiful. In each stage our relationship changes, and what it means to be my kids’ mom changes. And that change isn’t bad, but it hurts a little bit.
Today, I think about tomorrow, and I take my daughter for a haircut and I buy my son new socks and I make waffles for lunch, and I cry into my Bible in the morning and my laptop in the afternoon. Tomorrow, I will pose for the silly first-day-of-school shots and I will hug my leaving kids and try to educate my staying kid and I imagine that he will be tired of my tears as we review math facts and dig into American history.
Tomorrow will be a long day, as I wait to hear all about third grade and ninth grade– did she make it okay between bathroom breaks? Did he manage to get his locker open and to find his way to science class?
But they will come home to me. I will still be their mom, even if I’m not their Teacher.
And I will still be their teacher, because I am their mom.
Their favorite mommy, even.
On the way back to the car, G forgot she was too big to hold my hand.