In case you ever had occasion to doubt it, payback really is a bitch. After all those years I spent making fun of annoying, sappy, oh-having-kids-is-the-greatest-thing-in-the-world parents, it turns out that I am actually one of them. Somewhere between my son turning two and my daughter turning five, a pod person must have landed in my bedroom and stolen my soul while I was sleeping, replacing my dry cynicism with a sopping wet blanket. I’ve written about this before – when I was interviewed by Savvymiss.com, when my daughter had her fifth birthday – but never before has my transformation, my molting, reached the heights that it did last Friday, when my daughter graduated from preschool.
It’s not enough to say that I was emotional about it. It’s not even enough to say that I cried, or that I was sad. No. I was a downright puddle. I cried whenever I talked about it, I cried whenever I thought about it, and don’t even get me started about how much I cried when the entire Shooting Stars class of 2007 stood up and sang “The Circle Game.” I mean, it was pathetic. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one. The other mothers were all weepy, too, and even Michael got a little choked up during the performance. But hours later, I was still going at it, and I was starting to think I would never, ever be myself again.
That night, after the graduation, Michael and I were lying in bed watching Entourage when I suddenly burst into tears, again. Michael gave me a look that said something along the lines of, enough already, it’s only preschool, mixed in with a dash of what the hell has happened to you. Of course, he was right. It was only preschool, and by the way, what the hell had happened to me? But still, I couldn’t shake it. He hit the pause button on Entourage, and after watching me sob for twenty more minutes, he finally admitted that although he felt bad for me, he didn’t really understand what I was so sad about.
The truth is, I didn’t quite understand it either. But when I really thought about it, when I really tried to make sense of what, exactly, was making me act like my daughter had just run off to China to join the circus, it all kind of came together at once, like one of those cartoon lightbulbs that go on over peoples’ heads. I was sad, I told him, because I love her preschool. I loved dropping her off in the classroom every day, and I loved the way she ran to me for a hug when I picked her up every afternoon. I was sad because I love her teachers, and because I love her friends, and because I love the friends I have made among the other moms. But I was also sad, I told him, because I don’t really want her to get older. Her life is so simple right now, and I don’t want it to get complicated. I’m not looking forward to her having test anxiety or being excluded by mean, clique-y girls. I’m not looking forward to her having teachers she hates, or to her being frustrated by homework. And I’m definitely not looking forward to her wanting to be with her friends more than she wants to be with me, or to when she’s a teenager and she wants nothing to do with me at all. I told him that I’m sad because, although she’s only going to be in kindergarten, I know that those things are just around the corner. She’s going to an elementary school next year, where every day I will see fifth and sixth graders who will constantly remind me that in just a few blinks of my eyes, my delicious little five year-old will suddenly have acne and body odor and a cell phone with a ringtone song by some slutty, drug-addicted pop star.
My husband stared at me for a minute, and then he turned back to the television. You’re not a glass half full kind of person, are you? he asked me, as Turtle and Johnny Drama unfroze from their pause. No, I’m not, I agreed. I smiled for the first time in two days. I guess I haven’t actually changed so much after all.