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Maddie's Independence Day

Maddie had another first yesterday –
her first day of school.

Sort of.

We’ve registered Maddie for preschool starting this
September, and we’ve got a couple one-week day camps planned
to get her into the groove – figuring out what the school
thing is all about in bite-sized doses. But this week is spring
break, and her gym is offering day camp all week; for twenty bucks
a day, you can drop your kid off until nap time. I saw this and
thought, hey, this is a good way for Maddie to try out the
separation thing with no commitment. So we signed her up for one
day, and dropped her off.

Maddie’s been really excited about
the day: for starters, she’s known for a long time that you
can only go to day camp if you use the potty, and it’s as if
an outside group is officially recognizing her potty training. She
also loves gymnastics and knew her teacher would be there all day.
And finally, we bought a new lunch bag especially for the occasion
and she packed it several times over before going to bed the night
before – my kid loves to organize.

Tuesday morning, Maddie was excited but subdued. She said she was
mostly happy about it, but a bit nervous, and that she’d try
hard to be brave, but she hoped it’d be ok if she
couldn’t be. This, of course, nearly made Mommy bawl as we
drove to the gym. I love my kid.

And I should say here that this day was a big deal, because this
was the first time in Maddie’s life she was in institutional
care. Up until now, Maddie’s always been watched by family
– grandparents or aunts filling in if those of us at home
were unavailable. Maddie has done the church nursery or
children’s chapel, but she’s never gone a long time
without family, much less eaten a snack and a meal by herself.
She’s a brave kid, but I worried the sight of so many
strangers would overwhelm her.

Which it nearly did. We came in when the day was already in full
swing, and Maddie saw about thirty kids playing throughout the gym,
none of whom she knew, and shrank back a bit. But she bravely put
her things in a cubbyhole and walked out to meet her teacher. He
explained to her where the kids her age were playing, and I saw her
assess the situation and call an audible. She earnestly began
gesturing and explaining her preference, and I could half hear the
conversation: “Well, Mr. Adam, I’d feel more
comfortable in this area over here. I’m really not ready for
that part of the room, as I feel there are too many boys over
there.” Mr. Adam prevailed, and Maddie gave in.

I saw my kiddo walk to the edge of the foam pit, a look of
skepticism and doubt on her face. She jumped in, alone on her end,
and stared dubiously at the other end, full of preschool boys.

And then I walked out.

I spent the next half-hour with my cell phone clutched in my hand,
waiting for the call to come back and pick up my sobbing child. It
didn’t come, of course, and when I went back to pick her up
that afternoon she actually made me wait while she finished
something up. So the day was clearly a success, and I barraged her
with questions as we drove home:

“Did anyone pick on you? Did anyone try to hurt you? Was
anyone rude to you? Were you mean to anyone? Did you need to go
potty? Did you tell someone? Did you eat all your lunch? Did you
have trouble opening your lunch containers? Did you bring home all
your lunch containers?”

Did you miss me?

I didn’t ask the last one, of course, though I could see the
answer. She was a bit more affectionate the rest of the day, though
in a reminiscing kind of way rather than a clingy, needy kind of
way. I can already see the independence growing in her, the
realization that she may well have a life outside of the time she
spends with Mommy.

Tell me again why this was a good idea?


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