Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Firsts"

     Every parent knows there are going to be “firsts.”  Some of those firsts are going to be the happy, amazingly wonderful firsts; the “oh, they are growing up so fast!” kind of firsts.  And some of those firsts are going to be the lump-in-your-throat, my-heart-just-skipped-a-beat, “oh, my god what is happening?” firsts.  I had one of the latter this week. 
     I walk Coco to school at least twice a week, sometimes three times a week.  We walk to school through the park, past the playground, up the stairs next to the community center, around the hospital, past the corner grocery and onto the lower yard at her school.  More often than not, we arrive just before the bell rings and the principal, Ms. Pope, starts the morning announcements.  Coco gets in line with her class and I wait and listen to the announcements with the crowd of parents standing and milling around behind the kids lined up with their classes.   After announcements, the kids, lined up behind their teachers, walk to their classrooms.  As Coco’s line passes on the way to her classroom, I dart up, give her a kiss, tell her to have a good day, and then head to work.
     Now, many parents – ok, most parents – drop their kids off and don’t stick around.  They drive their kids to school and drop them off in front of the school and leave.  Or they walk them to the lower yard and kiss them good-bye at the gate and leave.  Maybe some kids even get to school without their parents.  I fully own the fact that I am the over-protective, paranoid parent of a kindergartener.  The idea of leaving her before she is in line with her class, in the eyesight and in the custody of her teacher, Mr. Kallock, and on her way to class is, well, anathema to me.
     This week, as Coco and I were waiting for the bell to ring and the announcements to start, she turned to me and said, “Daddy?”
     “Yes?” I said.
     “Charlie’s mom drops her off and then leaves before announcements.  I think I should start practicing that.”
      And there it is.  One of those firsts.  The kind that come out of nowhere.  The kind that make you stop breathing for an instant.  She doesn’t need me in the school yard in the mornings any more.  Waiting with her for the day to begin 
     “But I don’t think I should start practicing today.”
     And the world started slowly turning on its axis again.
     I don’t know if Coco was floating this possibility of independence for herself; saying it out loud just to see how it felt to her.  Or if she said it and saw the panic in my eyes and then quickly withdrew the suggestion for fear that her daddy might cause a scene in the lower yard in front of all her friends.  Regardless, at this point and at least for a little while longer, I get to wait with her until Miss Pope’s announcements start and then until she is on her way to class fully in the custody of Mr. Kallock.  

  

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