From the lyrics of a Kenny Chesney song and from the mouths of many strangers I've passed by while walking with my kids in public. "Don't blink."
Just about five blinks ago, my first born, was being place in my arms, with a tuft of bright red hair mashed against her pudgy face. As my intro to motherhood, it was a frightening experience, but everything seemed to click into place when she made full-blown eye contact with me between bouts of screaming. It was in that moment that we made a pact with one another...we'd raise each other, and we'd get through this life together.
Four blinks ago, my little red head was starting to toddle around, using her chubby hands to grasp everything in sight.
Three blinks ago, it was the first day of preschool. I watched her march into the classroom like she owned the place, only to regress to a neediness for mommy that she would later carry up until today. That was the only day that it was easy for her to walk into a classroom. Since then, it's been tears and clinging at every drop-off, from gymnastics class to grandparents' houses.
Two blinks ago, she was being introduced to her baby sister while contending with a plethora of emotions associated with sharing parents, space, and life in general.
One blink ago we were at the start of this summer. We had what felt like eons of sunny days ahead of us to spend together before she headed off to kindergarten.
And this morning, as I rubbed the sleepy seeds from my eyes, I realized my blinks of her as a baby, as my partner-in-crime for mid-day trips to the grocery store, or late morning snuggle sessions in bed, were over. Sure, there would be the occasional holiday or weekend where we could rekindle our moments from the timeless years before. But, nothing compares to those first five years where life is so new, where firsts are boldly celebrated, and time seems to go on for eternity.
After I brushed those seeds from my eyes, I tried to simmer down the war zone of nerves that was going on in my stomach. Just like we had committed to in the hospital on day one of her life, we were doing this together, and this first day of school was just as much mine as it was hers.
After I got myself ready, I took her first day of school dress off the hanger where I so delicately placed it the night before. Something as simple as the dress she chose to wear on the first day of school became suddenly a daunting worry, added to the pile of very real worries that a mother experiences day to day. Suddenly I was thinking about how comfortable she would be in that dress, and I needed to make sure that she had shorts on underneath in case she decided to do cartwheels during recess. Her teeth must be brushed far better than ever before because I didn't want her to be the "kid with stinky breath." I even argued with myself about a note in her lunch box. I didn't want to say too much in that note for fear of embarrassing her among her brand new classmates, but I wanted her to know I loved her and I was thinking about her.
As we walked hand-in-hand up to the school doors, I felt a million butterflies playing tag in my belly as I saw a million screenshots of her life up until this very moment. An image of her hands clutching beach sand for the first time, a picture of her opening that one special Christmas present, a vision of her pushing her scooter wearing a helmet that drowned her head. The images came at me like rapid fire, leaving behind a lump in my throat and tears that were very close to surfacing.
Walking Emily into her first day of kindergarten was like ripping off a band-aid, and part of me just wanted to get it over with and get out of the building as fast as possible. Another part of me wanted to pull her into me and flee the building, protecting her from all the hurt and pain that life has a tendency to throw at us. The inevitable stumbles that she will encounter in her friendships, her academics, and all the little things that she wishes to do in life, from making the team to getting asked to prom.
I imagine that the first day of kindergarten is one of many of these moments that will make me feel like running and fleeing, and that every big day is connected by all the blinks in between.
So, as they say...don't blink.
How was your first day of kindergarten?