This morning about a half hour before I usually leave for work Tom came upstairs to ask me if I could leave a little early and take Alyssa to school. She’d just told him that the junior high choir was supposed to sing Christmas carols at school starting at 7:40. The bus doesn’t get her to school until 7:45 at the earliest.
I told him I could make that work and we all went about our morning.
As I drove toward the school, Alyssa said forlornly, “I just don’t want to be the only one there.”
“Why would you be the only one there?” I asked her. I mean, weren’t all the other kids going to be there to carol too?
She said that her friend S said her mom would be dropping her off at 7:36. Which is…oddly specific. But whatever, I had to drop Lyss off at 7:30 because any later could very well lead me to being late for work.
I made soothing noises and assured her that even if she was the first one there, she wouldn’t be there alone for long.
As we pulled into the school parking lot, I pointed out the three cars parked in the front lot. Then I joyfully pointed to the other lot, which has LOTS of cars. Lyss rolled her eyes and reminded me that I was talking about the teachers’ lot and duh, of course they were there early. But what if none of the other choir students were there?
I refrained from rolling my eyes back at her (because I’m not a teenager and so I am supposed to be the mature one here) and told her to just put her backpack in her locker and then go to the choir room and everything would be fine.
Then I asked her if she wanted me to let her out by the sidewalk.
“No…” she said a bit sadly.
“Okay,” I said, still refusing to make any of this a big deal. Because it WASN’T a big deal. Then I pulled into the parent drop-off/pick-up parking lot, unlocked the car doors and said, “Kay, bye. I love you.”
She gathered up her backpack, gave me one last look and got out of the car.
As she started to close the door, I said with a smile, “Sing pretty!”
She grinned at me and as she walked away, I put the car in gear and headed for work.
I was probably a mile away when it hit me how far we’ve come.
When Alyssa started kindergarten, I walked her in to school every single day all year long. I walked her in, I waited with her in the lobby with all the other kids and when the bell rang, I watched her walk away so that if she turned around, she would see me still there.
I was gently urged by the office staff to just drop her off and go about my day. But this was my BAYYYYBEEEEE and she was scared and didn’t want me to leave her there all alone with all those other monsters children.
First grade was at the same school and it was more of the same, though I did managedto get her to agree to me walking her to the door and then I would just leave. It was a step in the right direction.
We moved right before she started second grade and so she switched to the school she currently goes to. This school is a twenty-five minute drive from where I work (as opposed to the five minute drive from her first school.) I simply couldn’t justify being almost a half hour late to work every day. So I drove her to school that first semester but she had to get out and walk in by herself. I still worried, incessantly, every single day. And I watched her from the moment she got out of the car until she was safely inside the school before I pulled away.
Her second semester of second grade brought a whole new step in this adventure…the bus. She worried herself sick about the bus but it was necessary. I just couldn’t do the drop off anymore and the bus went RIGHT by our house. I mean, duh, right? Of course it did. It’s the freaking school bus.
She couldn’t sleep the night before her first bus ride. I had to talk her down for hours, gently urging her to try to sleep even as she fought tears of nerves over this big new thing.
When I got home the day of her first bus ride to school her first words to me were, “I love the bus!”
And it’s been fine ever since.
But this morning’s drop off…it was something else. I knew she was nervous about the idea of being alone in the school but I also knew it was kind of silly. There was no way she’d be completely alone in that school. Even if none of her friends were there, there would be people and she’d be fine. I knew she’d be fine even if she was bored during her wait for her friends to show up.
This time, I didn’t indulge her nerves. I didn’t coddle her. She didn’t need me to either. She just voiced her fears, I assured her she’d be fine and when I get home, I’m betting she’ll tell me the caroling was great fun, having forgotten all about that bit of nerves over the possibility of being alone for all of six minutes this morning.
Not only have I come a long way in this parenting gig, but so has she. My girl is growing up and she’s doing so beautifully.