It was my older daughter's first week back to school. Kindergarten.
This is life changing.
She is no longer a preschooler officially. She is a school-uniform-wearing-gym-day-shoes-homework-having-student.
Part of the back to school routine included a Parent Orientation Night. I'd rather call it a pep talk.
In the folder the teacher presented us parents with, was a poem. I cannot stand sentimental poetry that is only about feelings and nothing else. However, instead of skimming over it I read it. And it hit me deep in my heart:
Little Eyes Upon You
There are little eyes upon you
and they're watching night and day.
There are little ears that quickly
take in every word you say.
There are little hands all eager
to do anything you do.
And a little child who's dreaming
of the day he'll be like you.
You're the little child's idol,
you're the wisest of the wise.
In his little mind about you
no suspicions ever rise.
He believes in you devoutly,
holds all you say and do;
He will say and do, in your way
when he's grown up just like you.
There's a wide-eyed little child
who believes you're always right;
and his eyes are always opened,
and he watches day and night.
You are setting an example
every day in all you do;
For the little child who's waiting
to grow up to be like you.
As if this wasn't emotionally enough for me, we also listened as the Kindergarten teacher spoke.
She stressed that in just 5 years, we will no longer be the main influence in our child's life. That her peers will be. We will no longer be cool. The first five years already flew by way too fast for me.
She mentioned that in only 13 years, they will be going off to college. What she didn't mention, but what is implied, is that they will also be adults then.
She told about a conference she went to and the speaker explained that while saving up for college is good, that the most important part of their education (and life readiness) was what we put in first from the beginning.
Put the good stuff in now.
The teacher also stressed that the children are to be learning responsibility and independence this year. The little things, such as cutting paper or drawing something and how we should treasure it because of the enormous effort they put into it. I already knew this.
But, yet, I think about the little ways I still baby my older daughter. That night, I had her shower independently instead of bathe. I told her that if she took too long eating or bathing or preparing for the next day, she lost out on story time and other fun things.
I needed this pep talk. More than she did. Because if I didn't get this and embrace it, she wouldn't either.
I looked around the classroom and took in the people. A Finnish family. A Vietnamese family. A couple of black families. Another Asian family who I had not yet spoken to and don't know what country they are from. Mexican, Belizean, German, Russian, mixed in with white American like my husband's family. One family is Native American but I don't know what tribe. Accents from various other countries mingling with Midwest American and a couple of East Coast and West Coast accents. The mixture of backgrounds overwhelming. This is good.
This classroom is a true blend of America. Immigrant and Native. All coming together in a Catholic Kindergarten.
My daughter has already played with several of the children. They are not color blind. They see each other looking different. They talk about each other's hair as much as they do about their shoes, what their toys are doing, and who their mommies and daddies are. And they like each other anyway. Perhaps even, because of that.
This school year is going to be monumental. Life changing.
Yesterday, I worked as a volunteer in the lunchroom. I had the toddler on my back in a baby carrier and she squealed for her sister during that first period. They kept smiling to each other and blowing kisses and showing each other off to the people around them.
I heard my daughter say "That's my mommy over there! She works in the lunchroom with my sister!"
I hope she gets why I'm doing this. Every day for the next few weeks until more volunteers are found.
I want her to understand my reasons.
I've already told her this many times. Pick something that you are passionate about and support it. Whether it's a good education or feeding the less fortunate or helping the environment or immigration reform or whatever it could be. Pick it. And find a way you can help make a difference. Even little ways can make a difference.
Me? I'm going to be having a 24 pound baby napping on my back every school day while I go around helping children open their lunches and milk cartons and teaching them how to themselves, helping children figure out how to cut meat up themselves (I know it's easier to cut the meat up instead but this is a life skill and I'm not there to cut up meat), watching to make sure everyone has a meal, nobody is sick or sad or hurt, that the children are raising their hands and waiting to be acknowledged to ask if they could please use the bathroom, complimenting them on their manners as they say thank you, pointing out untied shoelaces so that they don't fall, wearing gloves and wiping down tables between periods, distributing the lunches, waving at the children and asking how they were doing and listening to their answers, showing them how adults act responsibly, respectfully.
And it's hard. But I'm going to do it. Like I did last year. All while baby wearing. Because I don't have a babysitter but both my toddler and this are important to me.
I hope they get that.
This is not what I envisioned for myself when I was their age. When I was a young adult on my own.
Yes, this is life changing. And I'm glad for it.