You’d quietly put on your first-day-of-school dress and pulled your hair into a ponytail, finished with two barrettes and a cloth headband, before the rest of us were out of bed. You chose cereal for breakfast, and then stationed yourself at the coffee table to color a picture of a horse with markers.
When we arrived at school at 8:40 I walked you to the kindergarten playground, then into your classroom where you placed your pink REI backpack–the one we bought for your first backpacking trip on your 4th birthday–into your cubby. We returned to the playground where, after telling me I could go, I picked you up and gave you a hug. When I put you down you turned and walked toward the slide with a confident “Bye!” and a wave.
It was then that I almost cried. Almost.
So there you are now, not even 30 minutes into your school day as I type this. You will have P.E. today and computers. You’ll read The Kissing Hand and Pete the Cat. You’ll do math and go on a tour of the school. You’ll spend your day with Mrs. Koontz, two assistant teachers, and 24 other 5-year-olds you’ll come to know well.
You and I have come so far, my love. It was not so long ago that your favorite place to be was asleep at my breast. Now, for better or worse, you walk away from me and enter the world of public education.
Public education. The idea stresses me more than any we’ve faced together. Through my work I know almost every teacher at your school plus the principal and vice principal. They are motivated, caring, and fun. It is not them who worry me. Through my work I also understand current trends in education as well as the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards. It is here, along with the ultimate goals of education as espoused by our society (“To prepare students to compete in the global economy!”), that I recognize shortcomings in the system. They sit in the pit of my stomach.
Nonetheless, my love, you today enter a lovely little kindergarten with an easy-going, small town feel, surrounded by mountain views. There is no other option here, yet you are still fortunate.
You have the chance to learn to read, a lunch box full of food, the freedom to style your hair in any way you see fit. You are among the lucky ones, Maisie. Always remember that.
And I am among the lucky ones, too. For I have been, and continue to be, molded by your hand.
Baby Girl, never doubt how proud I am to be your mother.
I hope you’re having a good day. I’ll see you at 3:10.