My darling little big girl,
Today is your first day at big girl school.
Your knapsack is all packed with your water bottle, your wee snack box and raincoat. When your school said you couldn’t have a bag with Baby Goofy, you made sure we got you one with pretty daisies. Blood thirsty little hellion that you are, I half expected you to demand one with crocodiles and sharks. Wouldn’t it be fun though, if we did get you one, just to see the look on your teacher’s face?
Each time I’ve looked at you these last few weeks, all I’ve been able to think of is the first time we met, you and I, on that beautiful rainy day almost four years ago. You were such a delicious baby; well, mostly because you were mine, but also because you were the most fascinating creature in the world. You had us in splits all the time, even then. We called you Genghis those first few weeks – you were so red, so fierce, so bossy and you took no prisoners. Everyone who encountered you was smitten. Not very different from how you are now, except you aren’t so red anymore.
I’m so excited you’re starting school. Your Dada and I were both very clear about the sort of education we wanted you to have, so we went looking for a school that would give you exactly that. I don’t know which of us was more surprised that we actually found one, right here in Bombay. I’m thrilled you’ll make mud pies and play in the rain instead of sitting in a stuffy classroom and learning rhymes and the ABCs like we did. You’ll play with little dolls and kitchen utensils and listen to your teacher tell you fascinating stories. As you grow, you’ll learn to make things with your hands, paint, sew, cook, sculpt, and make music. You’ll learn how things grow by actually growing them. You’ll learn how stuff works by blowing things up. They’ll nurture your spirit and help your Mama and Dada grow you into an amazing young person. Oh, they’ll teach you how to read and write and add, but it’s the rest of the stuff that’s exciting, isn’t it?
I’m sad too, baby. Sad your Dada and I will no longer be the only important influences in your life. That you’ve begun to belong to yourself more than you do to us. Sad we won’t be able to shelter you from the big bad world forever. That you have to grow up. If only you could be my Peter Pan.
I know I tell you this a lot; some day in the not so distant future you’re going to roll your eyes at me each time I say it, but baby, you really did change my life. Dada’s too. I love you with every fiber of my being. I always will. Today is the first big girl day of your life and I hope you enjoy every second of it.
When you walk into that room, I’m going to say to you what your Dada taught you to say to me every morning as I leave for work: Be brave Mama, be amazing.
And sweetheart, while I’m going to do my very best not to cry, if you do turn around and see tears, always know that they’re happy tears. That your silly Mama has finally discovered she’s brave enough to take her first step towards letting you go.
Well, not really. But I’m going to try.
Be brave my baby, be amazing.
I cried. There, I said it. I couldn’t help it – she used to fit into the crook of my arm, this small person, how could I not be overwhelmed? I wasn’t brave today, but my little girl sure was amazing.
Here’s what happened at a little girl’s first big girl day.
It’s controlled chaos as we walk in to the school yard. Young people everywhere, in kurtas of many colours. What’s strikes me immediately is how unique each one of them is, despite the uniform. I notice that not one of the boys has a regular hair cut. I turn to a young lady tugging on my arm. With a big smile, she explains that she’s been asking me to excuse her. I haven’t heard her at all. I apologise and move hurriedly out of her way. She waves her thanks and runs to where the rest of her school mates are gathering for assembly. It isn’t like any assembly I’ve ever been to. There’s singing led by this dumpling of a teacher, a lot of laughing. Some teasing. These kids, they all have personality.
The kindergarten parents all huddle together. Looking around you can immediately tell the newbies from the seasoned pros – parents with older kids in this school. The newbies all have this ‘deer in the headlights’ look, so conditioned are we to fears, sending children to a regular school bring.
Her teacher walks over to us, smiling. She says hello to Thing, asks if she’ll help take care of some of the other small people, hold their hands and walk with them to class. Thing is thrilled to be asked for help. Walks off with her new friends, looks back just once, with a look I know so well. She’s apprehensive, but a walking time bomb of supressed excitement.
Yes, I’m crying. But you knew that already.
We’re asked to stay close today, her first day. We sit on steps that face a paved courtyard. There’s a playground to the left, with a nice big tree a little to the side. Goal posts have been marked on both sides with white chalk. There’s a little wooden tree house in one corner of the courtyard with a plank bridge connecting another wooden tower. What an amazing place to play dungeons and dragons.
It’s been half an hour and it doesn’t seem likely Thing is going to pitch a fit, so we decide to take a stroll. It’s not yet 9 am and a cup of coffee seems like a good idea. Not too many restaurants near this school though, so we settle for Coke and puffs at the local bakery.
We walk back three quarters of an hour later and the courtyard is transformed. Little people everywhere. One little person has a broom and is diligently sweeping up a square of the courtyard – whirling up a dust storm; another is rolling a small tire. Three of them are jumping in mud puddles, one looks like he’s digging for worms. We look around for our small person, for that signature shock of curly hair. There she is, on top of the tree house, making her way across the bridge to the other side. Fearless. She sees us and breaks into that special smile usually reserved only for her father. “I’m having so much fun Mama”, she yells.
We settle back down on the steps. She won’t be done for another hour. I’m smiling. We both are. I’m still a little sad, and I know the sad will probably never go away completely, but I also know it’s going to be alright. I know my baby will always find her way.
If you’d like to know more about the Rudolf Steiner / Waldorf experience, this video, Why Waldorf is a great place to start.