Holding on and letting go

My eyes are red, you say? They may well be. My beard has damp patches? Possibly it does.

I’ve just dropped my three year old daughter for her first proper morning at nursery. This has involved getting her into a uniform, equipping her with a water bottle and leaving her in a classroom with people who may not realize that she is one of the most important human beings in the world.

My daughters are both witty, charming and delightful, as you would expect. The three year old is also aggressive, moody and bizarre. I wanted to compile a sort of ‘User’s Manual’ so that the teachers would be able to understand how to deal with her when she stomps, when she growls or when she sobs. The correct way to deal with those situations is to call me and I will arrive faster than Batman to a crime scene. Sometimes she just needs me and my expertise.

The truth is, though, that she doesn’t need me. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes she will need her daddy, but today is the first step towards creating a human being that can function without me. It’s the first step towards me relinquishing control.

I wonder what she’s doing right now. I hope she’s playing with the dinosaurs. On the ‘taster sessions’, she loved the dinosaurs. I hope she tells a teacher when she needs the toilet. I hope she doesn’t cry. If she cries, I may have to keep her at home with me forever where we can play with the Play Doh and fall asleep together after lunch. Is that an option, universe? Could we just agree to let her stay little forever?

My children are one of the few things that bring me genuine joy. There aren’t many things in the world that inspire a genuine smile from me, but my children manage that every day. If they’re somewhere else, what am I supposed to smile about?

We had fun getting ready for school. Big sister helped little sister get dressed. Then they danced about and posed for photos. All the while, I had to pretend that I was just as excited as they were.

We dropped big sister at her classroom and she told me not to hang around, little sister needed to get to her classroom. Big sister is only six, but she shows flashes of a mature compassion and sensitivity that I admire.

I took my little bundle of mischief to her classroom. We took off her panda hat and her coat. We hung them on the peg that has her picture over it. We moved her name onto the correct board so that the teachers know she’s present. Then she charged over to the dinosaurs. She had remembered them from our last visit. She seemed utterly content. I put her water bottle with the other ones. I told a teacher that it was her first day. The teacher gave me the sympathetic smile that knows that this situation is totally mundane and totally life-changing. That’s the paradox: for me, this is a huge day; for them, this is Monday.

I gave my tiny, curly-haired chum a big hug. I love her so much that it hurts. “Are you ready for daddy to go now?” I asked.

“RAH!” she said, menacing me with her T-Rex.

“Love you! See you at lunch!” I said, still holding on.

“Love you! RAH!” she replied.

In a sane world, I would have been allowed to hold on. I would be able to hold on forever and keep her safe.

I let go.

“I’d better go, I suppose,” I whispered to a teacher.

“She’s so happy!” the teacher said, looking pleased.

She did look happy. She also looked tiny and precious and fragile.

Because I’m a sensible person, I did not cry. I walked out of school and popped to ALDI to buy cat food. I took the cat food home. I fed the cats.

Then I cried. I could hear my Viperish self having a good laugh about that. It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger, meaner man to laugh at his tears.

I may still be crying while I write this. Stop judging me.

In just over an hour, I will go to fetch her. She will be absolutely fine. She won’t have changed a bit. Nothing will have changed.

Everything will have changed.

I’m going to give her a big hug. Eventually, I suppose, I will have to let go again.

Right, I suppose I’d better do some housework. I will do housework. I will not sit looking at photos of my children and sobbing. I will not do that.

Alright, one cup of coffee, some photos and a sob. Then housework.

Hang in there, Viperettes and Viperoos.

Hang in there.

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