My youngest heads to kindergarten this year. One, in a series of lasts for our family. The last baby to cradle, the last to place to sleep in a crib, the last to pose for the obligatory first day of kindergarten photo. Despite this being my actual third time at the kindergarten rodeo, it very much feels like my debut.
Yes, it will be a very different first day because of this recent pandemic. Yes, I wonder if I am choosing the right path for him, but what really keeps me up at night is wondering if he is ready for the world without me and if the world is ready for him without me as a shield, for an entire school day, 5 days a week.
He is my spirited child. He has a spirit that I stopped trying to tame years ago. It took me a while to realize, but to tame his spirit would mean to put out the very fire that fills his soul. All three of these kids will have plenty of material to discuss at future therapy sessions and I am in no way looking to add soul extinguisher to their list or my conscience.
I realized a few months ago, it isn’t necessarily his willfulness and his defiance, at times, causing concern. It is his willingness to express openly and vocally every emotion that floods his heart. If vulnerability is the equivalent of standing naked in a room full of clothed people, he is like some type of rogue emotional streaker running through life, leaving a path littered with his clothing along the way. For a life long people pleaser, it is beyond comprehension how someone so young and so small, cannot only be comfortable with expressing every emotion, but fiercely confident in the demanding of others to recognize and respect those same emotions with little regard for their acceptance.
My husband and I both, for different reasons, spent a large portion of our childhoods being adults. We learned at a fairly young age that our personal emotions needed to take a back seat most of the time. It is why we and our marriage work – many times we understand each other without needing to verbalize it. Yet we have been given this child to raise with complete opposite expectations from himself and from us. Who makes no apologies for his vulnerability. The child Ying to our parent Yang. It is astounding the many lessons our children offer us, when we are willing to pay careful attention.
We have grown to love, appreciate and most importantly, admire this part of his personality, even though it is very foreign to us. However, I worry many will not have the acceptance or admiration for our emotion streaking warrior as we do. That the very same fire I have tried desperately not to extinguish, will be put out with ease one day when I am not around. He represents everything we have worked hard to undo and the mistakes we never wanted to repeat. The baggage we both silently swore to leave behind on the carousel and never force our children to tote around.
After I signed and submitted his school intent form, I took him to the dentist. He had two cavities at his last check up. Luckily for me, our dentist is a family friend and agreed he would not place an asterick beside my name or place my name on any wall of shame.
I am terrified of the dentist. Apparently, my own vulnerability issues extend to dentistry. I don’t make the rules, I just endure them. He is a great guy and dentist but still, I avoid it at all costs. I faithfully take my children though, because I think I read somewhere that routine dental visits were on the list of what good moms do and I already abandoned the no yelling and baking homemade birthday cakes from the same list.
I have always accompanied my youngest to the back. Every cleaning, I have sat nervously in the little swivel chair at his feet and smothered him with “great jobs” and “wow, you are so braves”. My praise was completely genuine. I am always legitimately amazed at his calmness when I white knuckle it for a routine cleaning in the same seat.
But, this was no routine cleaning. This visit was fillings, needles and a crown. I was anxious enough for the both of us. The dental hygenist arriving in the waiting room dressed in the equivalent of a hazmat suit to escort us, didn’t exactly ease my nerves either.
I asked if I was still allowed to accompany him to the back but before she could answer, he jumped up from the stack of toys he was playing with and announced confidently “I’ve got this by myself this time”. I gave the hygenist a look of question as he promptly walked over, patted my back and said “Don’t worry, Mom. I am going to be just fine”.
And maybe, just maybe, he will be.