I’m not ready yet. That is the phrase that began to build like a seismic rumble through every layer of my conscious crust. I’m not ready yet.
As I’m writing this, it’s the Sunday night before my beautiful two and a half year old, curly, towheaded, cherub, is about to start school. Well, not school, exactly. It’s July. More like summer camp. But the schedule is similar to her future scholastic career, which would be in full-throttle before the first leaf changes color. For now, camp is five days a week, from 9am to 3pm. A full day without our little monkey swinging through every room in the house, leaving a wake of scattered toys, splats of banana yogurt and sometimes other specimen which we can go without mentioning (we are still potty-training but I’ll give you a hint… yesterday she came in to my office with her diaper pulled off and a handful of something, which she was very proud to give to me… you can guess what it was). Anyway, we knew this day was coming. Both my wife and I went through the harrowing journey of finding her preschool, applying, rejoicing in the acceptance and coming to terms with a September D-day which would be equal parts elation and despair. Elation that we’d have some time away from our little, spirited, Tasmanian devil – and despair that we’d have, well, time away from our little, spirited, Tasmanian devil. Side note – our school even has a “support-group-get-together” immediately after the first day drop-off where all the parents collect at a nearby hotel bar and couple their tears with Bloody Mary’s and a giant mojito-filled-pitcher of liquid courage. But camp crept up on us much like the first time our little girl said her first expletive; unexpectedly, shockingly, wrong place wrong time, with a tiny touch of amusement. And I instantly realized, I’m not ready yet. I’m not ready to give her to another adviser, another caregiver even in the form of some very experienced preschool teachers who go by the monikers Mister and Miss “insert first name”. I’m not ready to send her off in to a new eco-system where new relationships will form, bonds will be made, feelings might be hurt. I’m not ready to let go and give in to the fact that she will, in fact, have a life outside of the one her mother and I painstakingly created with every baby-artifact we failingly attempted to assemble at midnight – and every electrical socket we plugged with plastic kid-proofing. I’m not ready to have her lead her own life – outside of ours… outside of mine. But I know that isn’t reasonable. It’s not the way it works. See, love comes with loss. They are like two sides of the same coin. You inevitably get one with the other. And it scares the hell out of me. I’m scared to lose her. The “her” that I know right now. The “her” that climbs in to our bed in the morning, wraps her arms around us and says, “Fam-ly” (That’s not a misspelling, she says it as a two syllable word… and let me tell you, it’s the cutest damn thing you’ve ever heard.) The “her” that asks for popsicles for breakfast and every time she does, tilts her head the very same way and asks with the perfect smile to get what she wants (and yes, we sometimes give in). The “her” where we are the center of her world – because she is the center of ours. And every day that goes by, every change that occurs, every milestone reached – makes me simultaneously feel that we love her more every day (if that’s even possible) but that she’s also slipping away from us. I don’t want the special smell of her hair and breath to go away. I don’t want her to stop needing me to reach her toothbrush on the counter that’s too high. I don’t want her to get too big and too old for me to pick her up.
I constantly obsess on the fact that there are only so many “pick ups” left – because right now, she wants me to pick her up a hundred times a day but eventually that will go away. So whether there are ten thousand more or a hundred thousand more, it is a finite number and I want to cherish every one.
The hard-truth of the matter is that we raise our children to leave us. And here we are, right on the edge of the abyss, an event, and one of the big ones – school. And as panic washed over my entire being, I realized I’m not only, not ready for this – but I’m not ready for any of it.
I’m not ready for the first time she sings all the words to “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”
I’m not ready for the first time she learns to ride a horse.
I’m not ready for the first time she swims without her floaties.
I’m not ready for the first time she and her friends ride their bikes to buy candy by themselves.
I’m not ready for the first time she has a crush on a boy.
I’m not ready for the first time he breaks her heart.
I’m not ready. But that’s life, isn’t it? Life is about growth and spreading your wings and trying – and sometimes failing – and getting back up and breathing it all in and conquering the world. And that’s’ what I want for my little girl. I want it all. I want her to feel like she can fly. Like she can do anything she puts her mind to. That she can excel and help people and move people and find happiness and experience everything the world has to offer. And me not being ready, won’t stop her from anything she wants or can do on her journey. Because that’s’ just it. It’s HER journey. Not mine. My only job is to love her and hopefully pass on a few things that can help her soar higher than I ever could – or ever would – have imagined. I give her the gas but she’s the one with her foot squarely on the accelerator. And she can let life take her as far and as fast and to as many amazing places as she could ever dream. So, while I will continue to always be “not ready yet” she will have every bit of support and love and guidance and nurturing and power and confidence and humor and love her mother and I can possibly instill in her – so she WILL BE READY.
She’ll be ready to sing all the words to “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”.
She’ll be ready to learn how to ride a horse.
She’ll be ready to swim without her floaties.
She’ll be ready to ride her bike with her friends to buy candy.
She’ll be ready for the first time she has a crush on a boy.
And she’ll be ready for the first time he breaks her heart.
And her Mom and I, we’ll probably smell like Bloody Mary’s and courage-filled Mojito’s, but we’ll be there, to pick up any pieces and to assure her… that she’s ALWAYS ready.
Ps – and to that boy who breaks her heart someday. Be on the look out for me. Believe me, for a Dad who’s never been ready, I’ll definitely be ready with a few things to say to you. 😉