Baby Steps into a Great Big World
Updated: Aug 17
"There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, and the other is wings.”- Henry Ward Beecher
The end of summer is nearing (sigh), which is sad enough on its own for me because I am madly in love with all things summer. This year, though, the end of summer also means that the day I’ve been dreading for a while is fast approaching. This moment has been in the back of my mind for months, and so many times I’ve caught myself thinking of this summer as “the last” of so many things. Soon, I will be walking my three-year-old daughter through the door at preschool and turning around to leave without her.
Okay, okay… granted, it’s just preschool, and it’s only part-time… But to me, this is the beginning of it all; the dawning of a new era, if you will. My daughter has never been to daycare and in the absence of myself or her father, she has only ever been cared for by family.
Though I have been precisely adamant about exactly how my daughter is raised, in no way would I consider myself an overly-clingy, “helicopter” type parent. I have worked tirelessly to ensure that my daughter is very independent and highly capable, due in part to the fact that I have had to balance both working and coaching with her by my side, so she is no stranger to following routine or handling authoritative expectations. I know in my heart that she is well-prepared and fully equipped to dive head first into this new adventure. However, in the same regard, she is my only child, which I can’t help but think means that I take every second of her life with the utmost consideration, and that I truly feel every new experience with her to the core.
We first toured the preschool months ago, and she and I were both instantly in love with it. I watched her take her soon-to-be teacher’s hand and walk confidently into a classroom full of kids. She checked out the room, listened to the teacher explain the students’ activities and daily routine, and even sang a song with the class and interacted with the kids. When the visit ended and it was time to leave, she had no interest in going back home with dear-old-mom and leaving all the fun behind.
My daughter has been an outgoing, social butterfly seeking companionship from the moment she could walk and talk. I do not envision preschool being scary for her, and I don't foresee that she will cling to my leg on that first day or that she won’t try to make friends. My assumption is that my heart may be a little crushed when she most likely will walk in confidently away from me with no second thought whatsoever, but I also know that this would be the best-case scenario for her sweet, brave soul. Though I undoubtedly will leave her and drive home in tears myself, I just couldn’t bear the thought of prying her from my leg and leaving her in tears.
My personal fears of sending her “off into the world,” in a small sense, stem not only from being separated from my girl, but from how the outside world will eventually impact her as a person. I have observed her interactions with other children on the playground, at events, and at dance class for the past year, and I have to admit that it scares me to see how open she is with her heart. The fact that she is an only child who has been raised at home means that she has limited experiences with other kids, and she is easily excitable when other children are present. She is most often the first to approach other kids, reach out her hand, and offer to share her toys or snacks. Sure, this is ultimately what we should want for our kids, but it’s been difficult to watch her experience rejection or unkindness as well.
Fortunately, she is young enough that she doesn’t quite understand when other kids don’t take interest in her, seclude her, or are cruel to her, but my heart knows that these could and likely will become very painful experiences for her in the future as she starts to gain a better understanding of human connection and emotions. The last thing that I want for her is to have her spirit shattered or her light dimmed, because she is an amazing little person who at such a young age already genuinely cares about others. One of her key phrases that she will regularly ask anyone she spends time with is, “Are you happy?” And if you oblige, her usual response is, “I’m happy, too.”
As much as I am confident in our choice in this preschool, and as often as my daughter reminds me how excited she is to begin, my heart still aches at the thought of this new journey. Though preschool is just a seemingly minuscule step in the grand scheme of life, I know that I am about to introduce my sweet, confident, funny, outgoing child into a huge world that my soul isn’t quite prepared for her to know just yet. The world can be brutal at times, and I can only hope that we have raised her thus far to our best ability and will continue to instill kindness, bravery, and compassion in her. I pray that we will always be available to her and that we will be as prepared as possible to guide her, and that she will be as prepared as possible to walk through all the tough scenarios that life can bring.
So, my message to my beautiful daughter as she takes her first steps toward the “real world” is this:
Darling girl, your heart is so pure, and your light is constantly radiant. You are kind, considerate, brave, forgiving, patient, empathetic, and so emotionally mature beyond your three young years. You will likely encounter people in your life who reject you or attempt to take advantage of your sweet soul, and those experiences will hurt. Do not let them diminish your light or change your spirit. Learn from every experience. Continue to spread your light and surround yourself with people who make you feel whole inside. Release any negative energy and hold on to the positive. You were put on this earth for a reason, and I believe that your purpose is far greater than we can even begin to realize right now. Never forget that you will always be truly loved for exactly who you are.
In the meantime, as soon as those doors close behind you and it’s time for me to leave, your mom will be at home counting down the minutes until that first day of preschool is over. My hope is that you will run to me with a huge smile on your face at the end of the day and share all of your experiences from your first baby step toward independence. Spread your light, sweet girl. No matter what, I’ll always be here when the day is over.