It's not like we haven't done this a million times: up the stairs to the preschool classroom, over to the table full of markers and paper, backpack on the hook, blankie in her arms. I could do this in my sleep, and I'm pretty sure -- on the nights I can't fall asleep because my brain is running in the same-old circles -- that's exactly what's happening. I'm reliving the monotony of a day. A series of moments. Looped on repeat. With accompanying soundtracks and requisite second-guessing.
But every preschool morning -- or summer preschool morning, as it were -- the process kind of falls apart at the end. The steps are all supposed to lead to me walking out the door, leaving Lauren to play and learn for a few hours. Just long enough for me to take Landon home and let him take a nap before heading back into town. Instead, the steps lead to Lauren hugging my legs, clinging to my neck, refusing the classroom.
I will say that it's not terrible; she's usually hiding a shy smile while begging me to stay. She loves her teacher and the activities. But every time, while her hands are tangled around some receding body part of mine, I feel bad about going.
Why are you sad when it's time for school to start, sweetie?
Because I miss mama.
Miss mama!?! But there's so much cool stuff to do at school! Soon, you won't miss me at all, I'm certain. You'll forget all about me, because you'll be too busy having fun!
No. I'll always miss mama, even if I'm having fun.
So I give a dozen last kisses and squeeze a dozen last hugs and carefully extricate myself from her grasp. She gathers her blankie to her chest like it will hold her together. Thermal duct tape for the soul.
Then the day comes. You know the one?
How was your morning, sweetheart?
It was great! We had chapel, and art, and Miss J sang a song about a bear hunt and it was so funny, and...mama? I FORGOT about you! I forgot ALL about you!
She keeps discussing the morning's details, probably outlining the distribution and temperature of the snacks; the time she saw her big sister in the bathroom and gave her a hug; the way she wishes her best friend could be in her class. She talks, as usual.
But I am only half listening.
Because she's finally learned how to forget about me.
And I have a sudden urge to run backwards in time -- limbs flailing with graceless desperation -- and replace her soft arms around my neck. I would beg her not to forget about me after all. I would carry her -- my babyest girl in a 4-year-old's disguise -- off into the sunset and we would live happily ever after, mama and baby, never to be parted by evil (wonderful) preschool teachers or evil (wonderful) independence.
Instead, I smile right through all of my lying teeth.
You did?! I'm so happy, baby! I KNEW you would forget about me! I KNEW you would.
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