Mirabella replied, "Mommy, if she chooses Dora or Mickey Mouse or one of those little kid shows, I won't even watch it."
Not sure when that happened. It was literally a week ago when they were both clamoring to watch it. And now it's too "little kid." Which brings me to a topic I've had occasion to think on a bit lately: The incremental process of letting our kids go.
I have always dreaded the start of school even though, as a student, I really liked it and haven't had any affiliation with schooling for some time (aside from my halted attempt at post-graduate work pre kids). It occurred to me that this will be the last year we are mostly unaffected by "back to school," since our eldest child goes to preschool just two days per week now. Still, we had to go shopping for a few items, had to attend parent orientation and a school work day. It is now not unusual to have a conversation start with, "Hey, are you Mirabella's mom?"
I feel like just yesterday we were agonizing over her name. Was it too long? Would she be able to say it? And spell it? Was it too different? Now she's in a class of 18 that includes a Bella, Anabella, and Ella. There is so much artwork littering our house with 'Mirabella' scrawled across the top that I don't know what to do with it all. I remember, back then, trying to envision her name on a prescription bottle, on a cubby hole or a nametag, on handmade cards in crayon. Now it's all here, everywhere I turn, and it came in the blink of an eye. Which must also mean that, just like that, it will be gone.
One of the rules at Mirabella's school is that the teachers will not do for a child what that child wants to do for herself. We have been trying to follow that one at home. Sometimes it's so easy to limit our kids to what they've done before, what's quick or less messy. But since making an effort, we've been amazed at what Mirabella wants and is capable to do for herself-- especially now that she has us cheering her on. She doesn't need me as much as she did before. Which is so great. I love watching her grow and discover. But sometimes it's sad. I wasn't really prepared for that.
We were talking at bath time tonight about how, until recently, Emerie called shampoo "washpoo." Mirabella said, "It's kind of sad that she doesn't call it that anymore, isn't it Mama?" I agreed that it was. "But it really is great that Emerie is learning how to say so many things the right way." So my preschooler gets it, but to me it's an epiphany.
When we moved here, I tried to encourage her to practice riding her bike. She wouldn't hear of it. "Nope, I already told you, Mommy," she'd say, "not until I'm seven." There was no discussion on the topic that didn't end with that phrase. Then the girl next door invited her to ride bikes out front. All of a sudden, though she had cried about it not a day prior, she was riding up and down our (not flat) street. Last week she asked if she could ride in the road with the older neighbor girls, and I reluctantly agreed. I watched her ride away as if my heart was on that bike; I watch her introduce herself to a new child, aware that the child may or may not accept her. Everyone will not be kind, everyone will not recognize the complex beauty that is my daughter the way I do; of course they won't. And I can't do anything about that. I watch, acutely aware that this pain will return, earlier and with more frequency than I'd thought.
I know my role is to cherish them, to enable them to grow and to teach them to believe and love and make good decisions. I know the way all this is supposed to end and that I will have been a failure if they don't want to test their little wings. I know they'll always be my babies. I guess I just thought these happy tears wouldn't be here yet. I thought I had more time before I'd start racking up the first of 10,000 little good-byes.