“Are you awake?”
“Is it morning yet?”
Mia snuggled closer to me and flung her arm around my neck, wisps of her wild hair tickling my lips. The night before — on Mother’s Day Eve — she could barely contain herself, so excited was she to give me her presents. I already knew that one of these presents was a small bag from her room, which she used to collect random things from around the house — hair ties, a paperweight, a picture she had colored, and a Clementine book (“So you have something to do when I’m not here”). Just when Mia fell back to sleep, the boys woke up, and no one knows so well how to wake up a house — screaming and laughing and babbling back and forth. I grabbed my bathrobe, hurried to their room and took them downstairs so they wouldn’t wake Mia.
Zach made coffee and told me to go back to bed, but I sat down on the couch instead and two little boys proceeded to climb on top of me. Wyatt did that thing that toddlers do — he sort of patted my arm and beamed up at me. And while I was beaming back at Wyatt, Luke grabbed my face and planted a sloppy and lingering kiss on my mouth. I decided I didn’t need to go back to bed.
A little while later, Mia came downstairs and jumped up and down while I opened my presents from her — the aforementioned bag and a flower pot she made at school.
Zach made pancakes for the kids while I sat at the table with my coffee.
Later, we went to lunch with my family where my grandparents announced that they both have cancer in the way someone might announce that a mutual acquaintance has cancer. They were more concerned about the lack of butter on our table than the disease infiltrating their bodies. My grandfather’s is skin cancer and from what I can gather, treatable. My grandmother’s is also believed to be a form of skin cancer at this point, but she’s having the lump removed next week and we’ll know more then.
After lunch, the boys took a nap and Mia and I left to hang out with my mom. We got cupcakes and went to the bookstore and we didn’t talk about cancer.
That evening after I got Mia to bed, I wandered into the boys’ room and was thinking they looked like giants sprawled out in their cribs, when I heard Mia crying from her room. I found her curled on her side, clutching her bunny and blanket, and whimpering like a starved kitten. I turned her to me and pushed the hair out of her eyes.
“I don’t want to leave Kindergarten,” she said, her whimpering escalating to a hard, gasping cry. “I don’t want to leave Mrs. B’s class and I don’t want to go to first grade.”
What could I say? Because the truth is, I’m not ready for first grade either. Wasn’t it just yesterday that she climbed onto the bus for the first time? I look at her and think she’s still so little. She’s still my baby. But first grade sounds so big. I didn’t say this to her. I didn’t say much of anything for fear of the crack in my voice that would give me away, so instead I held her and let her cry.
“I don’t want to go to first grade,” she cried into my hair, “Because you have to do hard things in first grade.”
So this is what I told her:
You can do hard things. How do I know this?
Once, you were terrified to put your head under water, but you practiced little by little. You took swim lessons and let your teacher help you. And one day you were ready so you took a deep breath and submerged your face in the water, and you were so proud of yourself when you came up for air.
Last year around this time, you didn’t want to leave your preschool friends. “What if I don’t have any friends in Kindergarten?” you asked. But that first day you ran down from the bus and announced that you made 25 new friends.
Unlike reading, math does not come without challenges for you. You want so badly to pass Math Challenge, so we worked together and talked about taking your time and checking your work, and last week you passed level 2 of Math Challenge.
You take care of your brothers without being conscious of your mothering instinct. You share with them your snacks and toys and books. You let them sleep with things you like to cuddle. You read to them. You teach them. You run back for kisses from the morning bus stop when they call your name.
And you (usually) do all these things with grace and kindness and very little bribing from my end.
So we can do first grade, you and I, because we can do hard things.
I took a deep breath as I finished my spiel and waited for Mia to say something, but when I looked down at my lap where she was resting her head, I realized she was barely hanging on to this side of awake.
“Are you awake?” …
**If you follow me on Instagram you’ve already seen these pictures, so I apologize for the repeat. P.S. I haven’t figured out how to add an Instagram button but if you’re on Instagram you can find me at lara_joylovelyjoy.