This was originally posted September 2, 2005 on my at-home-dad blog, The Daily Writer. I’m posting here for multiple-reasons. To create a single repository for my writing. To reflect, a decade later, on those early parenting days. And because so many of my friends, who were childless party-goers when these blog posts were written, now have kids of their own, making these words more relevant. To all those raising small children, you’re not alone. Many of your struggles and joys are common experiences shared by many, but the specifics belong solely to you and your child. No one can take them from you. Thankfully, the memories are more wonderful (and less stressful) in retrospect.
On a Wednesday afternoon in late summer, when the prairie grasses sway in a calming breeze, when the leaves rustle a melancholy tiding of autumn, my little girl will start preschool. The weather might be sunny and warm, or, if I get my way, cool and overcast, with lashing winds and swirling clouds capable of foreshadowing the ominous years ahead.
Next week it all begins. And I have mixed feelings.
On the one hand, Smartypants needs school like a tadpole needs legs: to grow and to mature and to learn how to eat insects. What? Didn’t you do that as a kid? She needs children to play with. She needs the social interaction, the ability to cooperate with her peers. Things I can’t teach her.
On the other hand, she’ll be away for a couple hours three days each week. By itself, that’s no big deal. To be honest, I look forward to it. But it signifies such a drastic shift in my life and our relationship. My little girl’s universe will expand. She’ll make friends. She’ll learn new stories. She’ll find other priorities and have other needs. I know it’s just preschool, but it’s a whole new world. My little girl is growing up, and all I can do is wonder why four years that once seemed destined to last forever somehow passed quicker than a snap of the fingers.
Two years of preschool to come. And after that, kindergarten. And after that, full time school. Seems a long way off, but it’s not. She’s quickly approaching the age at which my earliest memories begin. And those memories, I must admit, even knowing that my parents occasionally read this blog, are not of mom & dad. They are memories of school and playgrounds and kids I knew. Certainly mom & dad show up from time to time, but usually as an inconvenience.
And I wonder if her earliest memories of me will be similar. Certainly she’ll never remember our four years home together. She won’t remember making forts on the couch or peering out at the cat beasts that stalked us. She’ll never remember hiding under the blankets on the bed, pretending to fly through space (somehow, we always landed at the supermarket!). She won’t remember cuddling on a cold winter morning or talking to the shampoo bottles on the bathroom floor while I took a shower or rocking to music on my lap until she fell asleep.
And more importantly, I won’t remember her as she is now. I won’t. I know I won’t, because I watch the videos and look at the pictures and say, “Wow, I can’t believe that’s my Smartypants.” I guess I’m being a bit melodramatic. But that’s okay. That’s what parents do, I guess. And though I might not remember everything, I hope I never forget the important stuff…
Like every night when I put her to bed… I tuck her in, kiss her forehead and tell her I love her. As I walk away, pulling the door closed behind me, always that soft adorable voice floats through the silence. “I love you, too, Daddy.” It’s the perfect end to a day. And as she prepares to take the next step on the road to independence, as chapter one of her life story ends, I’ll do what I can to remember those words.
And I’ll prepare as best I can for what lies ahead, because this was just the beginning.
As the saying goes: Be afraid, be very afraid.