You know what’s “fun” about living with chronic anxiety? Sometimes the fear that looms ever-present in the back of my mind numbs me to my socially-acceptable feelings of anxiety. Avery’s first day of Kindergarten has been vague and looming. Her friends’ mothers have been getting teary-eyed, saying how just yesterday they were babies. I would nod as they lamented, but inside the feelings weren’t mutual. It crept up on me when the first day of school arrived and I looked in the mirror and saw myself, AND the mother of a kindergartner.
It’s like when you’re bending over the sink to wash your face at night and you feel vaguely vulnerable but when you look up there is another face behind you in the mirror and in a split second you go from anticipation to startled panic. (Side note: that actually happened to me recently and like the calm, quick-witted woman I am, I reacted by falling to the ground silent and breathless as if I’d been shot. If it would have been an attacker, he probably would have paused to laugh. Which also brings to mind the question, why don’t high schools offer Self Defense classes?)
Anyway, I think the thing that gets me the most is that I actually remember Kindergarten. I still see friends I made that year. I started when I was 4 and my teacher was called “Richard” (because Northern California is crunchy like that). He played guitar and his favorite song for us was This Land Is Your Land. (Thankfully he sang a better rendition than Bernie Sanders, which never gets old to me.) I had my very first crush on a boy named Andrew Wells. I walked in the room and instantly thought he was the cutest boy I had ever laid eyes on. Turned out we didn’t have much in common.
Avery’s spent 90% of her 5 years of life with me. She listens to me gab on the phone with my girlfriends saying “grown up” words and hears rap music in the car more than Disney soundtracks. This will be a fresh start for both of us. This is a new world of social mores, uniforms and homework and absentee policies and handbooks and forms and rules. The other day, my sorority sister told me about a friend of hers who got a call from her son’s private school because he was “cheersing” other kids at lunch. My first thought was, “Mother of God, I’m f*cked” as I envisioned Avery inviting the girls over for a mocktail after circle time.
So today, Savannah and I drop off Avery. She’s in her catholic school uniform and starting a life that she will fill with her own personal memories that I will only know about if she tells me. I stayed to watch her morning prayer before I left and took pictures. Then I realized, what example am I setting here treating their morning prayer like a little show for my amusement? When I walked out the double doors and looked around, I realized I was the only mother not sniffling or teary-eyed. For a moment I wondered if I was in denial, but then for some reason my mind showed me all the babies I know of who’ve been conceived or born in the past five years and didn’t live to see this day. I’ve been fortunate enough to never experience the loss of a pregnancy or child, but as I drove away, I thought to myself: all those bright, shiny faces in that classroom are little miracles. I felt so in awe and so grateful for these little survivors.
And I’ve never been more sincere when I say, Holy Mother, I am going to need help. And Jesus, I can’t do this alone.
*No Catholics were intentionally offended in the making of this post.*