Up and out and off to school.

Annie is going to kindergarten tomorrow. I always said (or, thought) I wasn’t an overtly sentimental parent. I mean, I loathe “My baby is going to school!” bus stop photos. But lord almighty, here I am, clinging to her outgrown clothes with a red capital H for hypocrite sewn on my chest. I cried when we went to her school’s open house, a big airy beautiful space, and when her bus assignment postcard came in the mail (bus #17!), and when she got her assigned teacher via email. Not big, blubbery cries, but silent tears that are as much about her as they are about what I’m losing: time. On this Earth, and with her. Like I said, I’m a bit emotional right now…

Her teacher sent a “Getting to know you” questionnaire and I was at a loss. How can I sum up such a creative, infuriating, nurturing and compassionate kid in a few sentences? She deserves pages because everything about her is vexing and beautiful: like any kid, she whines and challenges and sulks, but two minutes later she’s drawing me an apology picture and sprinkling us with hugs and asking about tomorrow’s activities. Always on the go. Always looking up and out. The questionnaire asked to sum up our child so Mr. Holmes (yes, a dude kindergarten teacher which I’m psyched about) can truly understand them.

So here we go. It’s about time I did one of these anyway. Annie, at the cusp of kindergarten and almost six, is getting….witty. Self-aware. Nurturing and compassionate. She can be a showman. She is a fierce protector of her brother and his ultimate boss. They are best friends and have slept in the same room for months: Annie in her bed and Sam in our little traveling cot. He said he’ll miss her when she goes to kindergarten. She tickles him and dances circles in his orbit when he’s sad. She just wants to make all of us smile.

She loves her iPad games and we let them both huddle over a screen together on weekend mornings as we drink our coffee. She watches horribly annoying videos on Youtube of kids opening up presents (that is a thing). She kisses her Barbies and lays them down to sleep while soothing them with, “Honey, honey, it’s going to be okay,” and other sweet nothings. She uses approximately 2.4 rolls of Scotch tape a week in pursuit of her art creations. She and Sam rummage in the kitchen for prized “treats” when they think we’re not looking: chips and chocolate or even a sorry saltine cracker will do.

She always wants more: recently we went into the city to a museum and she said we didn’t do “anything”. “We just went to a museum and stopped at the library,” I said. “Yeah, but we’re not doing anything now,” she countered. From an early age she spent weekends at the grandparents and these past two summers has spent nights at her Aunt Priscilla’s in “Silladelphia”. She does not miss us. Up and out, out with the old and in with the new.

She can have a flare for melodrama. Last month as we ended a weekend in D.C., she lamented that, “This is the worst day EVER,” as our car pulled out of the city. Sam turned to her and said, “No it’s not, Annie. Today is Daddy’s birthday!” with a bright smile. She groaned and turned to look out the window. You see, we were going home. To Annie, who loves experiencing the new, home is decidedly not new or exciting. Boring has entered her lexicon. Sam loves being at home. He’s more sensitive and the safe rituals of home suit him just fine. There he has dance parties with Annie, or joins her at her big Barbie house, or in the blow-up pool in the yard. They circle one another around the kitchen, downstairs to the basement playroom, and end side-by-side in their beds in the evening. They giggle, and scheme, and shriek late into the night. They both have kicked the other out of their rooms but it never lasts long. And Sam plans to walk with Miss Julie up to the bus stop everyday to pick up his big sister.

Have a wonderful time in kindergarten, Annie. Open your arms up wide and make it your own. Up and out, up and out, with each passing year.

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