Published on August 18th, 2015 | by Richard Black


Kindergarten, A Day of Firsts, and the Real Reason for My Concern

UF_schoolbus_081815It’s slowly dawning on me that Darcy will be attending kindergarten. The understanding is undoubtedly, in part, due to the fact that today is her first day of school. Being a decentish parent I’ve heard that keeping tabs on these sorts of things are important to the child/parent relationship.

To be honest I’m not terribly concerned about how Darcy will handle kindergarten. She’s upbeat, gregarious, adventurous, kind, considerate and generally pretty happy child. She takes after her mother when it comes to temperament and is, in short, the precise and exact opposite of the shy, and moody child I was in kindergarten and for that I am truly grateful.

My concern isn’t for my daughter. She’s been through three years of preschool, multiple road trips, a score of potentially traumatic Holidays and much else. No I’m not all that worried about Darcy. My concern is, quite frankly, much more selfish than paternal.

After my wife and I dropped Darcy off for her first day I made the trek back home on foot to determine how long it would take us both to walk to school the following day. Somewhere during the journey, between realizing that I should probably double the amount of time it would take us both to make the trip, I realized that I was going to have a rather large block of time to myself.

Some parent’s find that idea to be liberating, they pine for it throughout the summer and laud their freedom during the school year. I however find the mere thought to be, just a bit, terrifying.

I’ve been a stay at home dad for the better part of five years and react to changes in my routine about as well as Dustin Hoffman’s character does the same in Rain Man. Aside from a few breaks, a few hours every weekday morning, I’ve had the constant companionship of my daughter for more than half a decade and it’s beginning to dawn on me that I’ve going to miss her companionship.

UF_olives_081815Don’t get me wrong. The experience hasn’t been all wine and roses. I’ve been puked on more in the past five years than I had been in college which is really saying something. Eschewing anything but berries, yogurt and Kalamata olives my daughter has effectively ruined mealtimes for the past three years. We’ve had our fair share of scares along the way, visits to the ER in the middle of the night, fever spikes prompting a mad rush to the drugstore, and fervered conversations with the nurse hotline. My wife and I have done everything, in short, that good parent’s do to keep their children alive, happy and moderately healthy.

And now my daughter is leaving. Granted that’s a bit melodramatic. “It’s only kindergarten you pussy,” I can hear you and the little voice inside my head that sounds a bit like my uncle. Darcy is after just going to kindergarten but kindergarten is really just one of the many steps my daughter will take to grow and ultimately declare herself separate from myself and her mother.

She has to. I get that. I know that it’s a part of growing or aging depending upon which side of the equation one happens to be. I also know that but there’s something so inherently wrong with the deal. To spend so much time tending to this person, keeping her fed and rested and alive, to guide her through some of the most traumatic times in her life and spend countless numbers of hours in worry and to just let her go…it’s…well it’s counterintuitive to be polite.

In my head I know that Darcy will be fine today. My heart however begs to differ. I remember the little girl just shy of eight pounds who slept on my chest when she was two weeks old. I remember watching her take her first tentative steps in a hotel room on the way to New Orleans and the stoicism she had when I took her from the car that had been broadsided and then flipped. I remember watching her a few days ago as she tried to master her balance bike and skinned her knee.

“I want to go inside,” she pleaded, “I’m bleeding and it’s getting worse.

UF_biking_girl_081815Once the wound was treated and swabbed and bandaged, after an hour on the couch she wanted to give the bike another go and I let her knowing that she might very well get hurt. It would be convenient to write that I took her to the top of the hill on the sidewalk and that we looked down the path together. That Darcy pumped her feet against the concrete and I gave her one last little push as she rode the bike to the bottom of the hill while I ran after her, cheered her on with equal parts of enthusiasm and reservation.

It would be nice to end this story like that but it’s not what happened. That’s rarely how things turn out, at least in my experience. A part of me, the frightened and paternal part of me, wants the story to end that way. So neat and tidy. So triumphant. But what’s to be gained from that?

Darcy kept at it. She trudged her bike up the hill and then shoved off, two feet pushing in tandem as the bike swerved back and forth over the sidewalk. She would catch herself just before the bike’s movements became too erratic and ditch it in the grass before hopping right back on and coasting back down the hill or trudging back up its length.

“Again daddy,” she’d say, “I want to do it again.”

She didn’t get the knack by the time the day was over. The seat hurt her butt, her knees were skinned and even though she was tired she still wanted to try.

“One more time daddy,” she’d say, “I want to ride a big girl bike.”

No I’m not worried too much about my daughter.

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