Two weeks ago, my baby started Kindergarten. She got up in the morning, put on a school uniform, ate a very small breakfast (nerves!), slung her new backpack over her shoulders, marched down the street to the bus stop, gave me one last sweet hug and kiss, and climbed onto the bus behind her big brother and sister.
The bus drove away. I stayed on the corner.
(Here’s where I reassure you that this is not a post about the pain of motherhood and letting go. I did feel a little sad. My quiet house felt extremely weird. I also felt happy. And free. But this is not about what I felt. Feelings. Who needs them?)
My baby had a whole long eight-hour day, and I was not a part of it. I also had a whole long eight-hour day. She wasn’t a part of it. Then she got back off the bus at 3:08. I took her hand. We walked home. We were together again, but that gap, that eight-hour gap, it was there.
She has her own life now. Her own story.
It happens sooner with some children than with others. This one, my baby, more so than my other children, has had her story tightly blended with mine for longer than most. We’ve had hours, even days, apart, but not with any regularity. Her story, the overarching sum of her waking moments, was witnessed by me, and I was its chief supporting character. All that is changing now.
I’m not afraid. A little sad, maybe, a little sentimental, but not afraid.
Because I always had a story separate from hers. I had years of story before she was born and hours each day while she slept. So many things have shaped me and remade me, and she never experienced any of them except through the tales I chose to tell her. But I have told her tales. True tales of me. True tales of my life. True tales of my imagination. Some I am saving for when she is older, but she knows enough. She knows enough to know me.
And so I trust that she will do the same. For the first time, she has tales to tell me that I don’t already know. And as she chooses to tell them, that eight-hour gap, the one that is multiplied by all the days, is filled in. I don’t know every detail, as I did when I lived it with her, but this is better really. Now her story is coming to me through her filter, and not through mine. I hear only what she finds important, what rings in her memory, and it is colored by her brain, her wonderful, magical mind.
Why do we tell stories? Because we want our children to be storytellers. How else will we really know them?