Tomorrow is Amber-Jane’s last day at her first school. I didn’t expect to feel so emotional, so sad, but I do. I’ve tried my best to explain to her that she’s leaving and won’t be going back, but she’s too young to understand the concept of loss, especially as it’s tempered by her excitement about our up-coming holiday. She’s excited about going on a road trip to see caves and eat ice-cream on top of the mountain. And she’s excited about going to a new school with Teacher Kelly, whom she’s already bonded with. I’ve asked her if she’s sad. She said no. Still, I feel the loss for her.
Perhaps I should have kept her at home, as I had originally planned, until she was three and ready to go to Waldorf instead of placing her in a temporary play school. I worry that the upheaval and loss of some of her first friends, especially James with whom she bonded closely, will make her commitment-phobic in later life. I feel guilty that I did not try harder to overcome my shyness and connect with the other parents, arrange a few play dates. It didn’t help that a mom with kids in the same school told a mutual friend that I was the weird mom, the odd one out. It made making connections more difficult knowing my suburban mask was transparent. Still, I should have tried harder. Now it’s too late.
*I’m beginning to understand that my mother felt every one of my sorrows, though not in the same way I did, or for the same reasons. Parenthood comes with obligations. When you fail to fulfill one obligation, it brings others into play. I had an obligation to smooth my child’s path into society. I inadvertently placed obstacles in her way, now I must absorb her loss. To absorb our child’s early sorrows is a mother’s duty. Another is to try soften those sorrows when they begin to comprehend that life is sometimes cabbages. If that weren’t enough, soon after we need to know when to let go and allow our children to experience private pain, without our advice or this-too-shall-pass-platitudes. It does, but it takes experience, not proverbs, to know that.
Early on my mother-journey, someone told me that when you have a child, your heart leaves your chest and begins to walk around, exposed to every small slight. At the time, Amber-Jane was just a grub. I hadn’t begun to consider the philosophical nature of parenthood; I was just trying to get through each day with the minimal amount of baby poo and vomit on my clothes. That we were both still breathing at the end of each day was my miracle. Things are different now. The excreta has been neatly compartmentalised, and my responsibilities have expanded. The feeding and clothing and nappies, once the be-all and end-all of my existence, are now just punctuation. Now my mandate includes filling my daughter up with ideas and knowledge. And more than that, with the tools and social skills to get her through life, happy and hopeful. That’s a tall order for the weird mom.
*Obligation and duty are the wrong words. There must be another word for things you must do because you love so much, but I don’t have it at my disposal.