by Melissa Face
I keep having the same nightmare: I’m outside in the middle of a severe storm, and I can’t find Delaney. I call to her, eventually see her, but am unable to catch her. She reaches out to me, and each time I get closer, the wind takes her a little farther away and beyond my grasp.
I realize that these types of dreams are likely a manifestation of my high anxiety, a problem that I’m dealing with that is more challenging than I ever imagined and not at all unrelated to being Delaney’s mother. But I also think that this dream is a reminder of the incredible force of nature that my Delaney is: strong, unpredictable, and turbulent.
Returning to full-time work was a huge concern for me this year because it meant that Delaney would need a full-time preschool situation. I feared her unruliness and defiance at home would carry over into the classroom. I worried about her saying inappropriate words and showing off her vast knowledge of potty humor. I worried about her refusing to wear her uniform. I worried about her back talking her teacher. I worried about getting a call from the school during the first week saying, “Mrs. Face, it seems that our school is not a good fit for your daughter. We would rather our students not refer to each other as ‘fart butts.’ We wish you both the best in pursuing other educational opportunities. Please come get her.”
I kept telling myself that if we could just survive this year, then she would be entering kindergarten and the law would REQUIRE that she attend school. Public schools would HAVE to take her, and I would be able to keep my job.
Delaney has been in school for almost nine weeks. So far, there has been no call.
She really hasn’t had any negative reports, either, aside from one day of being on yellow for splashing water in the bathroom. She didn’t defend her demerit, but instead said, “I’m disappointed in myself. I knew that it was bad, and I did it anyway.” She has avoided being on yellow ever since.
The night before she began school, I read her The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. It’s a story about a little racoon who is nervous about being away from his mama when he attends school for the first time. Mama racoon kisses her child’s palm, then places it to his face. She explains that when he goes to school, he can touch his palm to his cheek and feel his mother’s love.
After we finished reading the book, I kissed Delaney’s palm and told her to hold it to her face if she missed me and needed to feel my love. “I will,” she promised.
On the way to school a few days ago, Delaney told me to turn the music down. We were listening to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham!. She wants to hear it every morning, and if we catch a few stoplights on Washington Street, we can hear it a full three times from our house to her school. Yay!
“Turn it down, please,” she repeated. “I need to tell you something.”
“Okay,” I said. “What’s up?”
“You know how you gave me the kissing hand when I started school?”
“Yes. I remember.”
“Well, I still have it. But I don’t really need it right now.”
“Why is that?”
“Because school is not new anymore.”
It took me a few minutes to absorb her comment. She was telling me, in her way, that she had adjusted to her situation, and I didn’t need to worry about her.
The neat thing about parenting, though, is that there is always something to worry about. We don’t run out of opportunities to worry. We worry about our kids when they need us, and we worry about the day when they think they don’t.
I’m happy and relieved with Delaney’s adjustment to full-time school. My little force has new friends, a regular routine, and wonderful teachers. I think this is where my dream comes in, though. Delaney is establishing herself outside of her home and slowly slipping away from me. It is something to celebrate and at the same time, something to lament. She will never be fully mine again. From now on, she will be influenced by her teachers and peers in addition to her father and me, and eventually, more so.
I can’t help but worry about how hard this world is for females and that I am raising a daughter in what is still, in many ways, a man’s world. Then, Delaney talks, and I hear a little of myself come out. And I know. She will be able to stand up for herself and speak her mind. She’s made of the tough stuff. She is my kid, and she’s equipped to weather the storms. She is going to be okay. We both are.