When I confessed my anxiety about Madeline going to kindergarten to one of the moms I’m closest to, she said she’d felt that panic when her oldest son was set to start “real school,” too. “Something changes when they leave nursery school for kindergarten,” she said, sounding more than a bit wistful as we watched our daughters make ‘wacky wands.’ “They don’t need you as much.”
When I first found myself home alone with a baby, having never changed a diaper before becoming a mother, I told myself that things will get easier when she’s older. Now I find myself wistful for those days when she was the tiny tot who relied on me for everything.
Last night, when we were sitting in the living room reading our ‘goodnight book,’ it seemed as if my daughter was reading my mind. “Tell me about when I was a baby, Mama,” she asked me.
“What do you want to know?” I asked. Knowing my daughter never tires of hearing about the ritual we followed in putting her to bed when she first came home from China, I waited to see if that’s what she was asking.
“Did you sit in that chair and give me a bottle?” she asked, as she has many times before. She pointed to my favorite spot in the room where I’d spent countless nights watching the sunset as I soothed her to sleep.
“Yes, I did. Then I sang you a song and carried you into bed.”
“And I was this big,” she said extending her arms straight out in front of her.
“Yes, you were.”
“Now I’m this big,” she said as she swung her arms wide open.
“Not quite, but close,” I told her.
“When do people stop growing?” she asked.
I thought for a minute before answering. “On the outside, you grow until you’re done with school but on the inside, you keep growing forever.”
“You’re still growing?” she asked me sounding more than a bit confused.
“When you’re a grown up, you’re still learning about a lot of things that make your heart and your mind grow. You can’t see that kind of growing, but it’s there,” I explained.
“I just want to be tall,” she said.
“There’s plenty of time for that,” I said as I tucked her into bed. “Enjoy being a little girl. It wasn’t too long ago that you were a baby.”
“But I’m not a baby anymore!” she smiled as she reached up to give me my good- night kiss.
“No, you’re not,” I said feeling the sting in the back of my throat. “But you’ll always be my baby.”
And then I went outside and began filling out her kindergarten registration. I know it’s not possible, but I swear I felt taller when I dropped off the papers at the school this morning.
Betty’s multi-tasking parenting columnist is a New York Times best-selling author who covers fashion and entertainment for publications, including People. When she adopted her daughter from China in 2005, she discovered motherhood provides great material on a daily basis. Between driving her daughter to nursery school and juggling play dates, she writes and is at work on her first novel.