Tuesday was Kindergarten registration day in our school district. When the school was looking for parents of current Kindergarteners to volunteer a few hours to meet and greet the incoming parents, I jumped at the occasion. It’s not the kind of thing that I normally like to do and I totally did not have the time, mind you, with two pressing writing deadlines staring me down this week, among other things. But I wanted to help because I immediately recalled my emotions on the day I went to register M last March. Not surprisingly, I was a weepy mess when I left the registration room, and a parent volunteer was kind enough to not think I was crazy.
As I saw on Tuesday, crying at registration, it turns out, is not standard practice.
Looking back, I think I can explain those tears better now. When I was filling out those forms, M was going through some pretty tough stuff that was making school and separation unbearable for her every single day, but especially the three days she went to preschool. How would she handle five days of this? I wondered. She was, and largely still is, not someone who can cope easily with major changes in routine. Naturally, I was anxious about how it would go in Kindergarten when the time came.
And wouldn’t you know, when Kindergarten started in September, she was fine. Something happened in the span of the six months between registration and orientation. The issues she was dealing with in the six months before were distant memories as a result of some hard work we did as a family to help her. The transition was virtually seamless and there were no tears (from her at least).
When she was six months old, it was time for me to go back to work. I thought about how at one point, in those early weeks of nonstop nursing, I thought I couldn’t wait to get back to work just so I could have some time alone . . . and then when that day came, I was so completely torn about going back to work. My mind had had 180 days to parse out the meaning of this tender life now firmly centered on the map of my world. My mind and the direction I wanted to go, ultimately, had changed.
It got me to thinking about all the times when she’s had a major burst of milestones, or taken several steps backward. We’ve noticed that when those episodes occur, she’s either about to have a birthday or she’s just reached the half-birthday mark. It’s practically predictable.
Six month cycles, it seems, are how we measure time around here. Yes, there are the minutes that feel like decades, and the years that pass with the warp speed of the second hand, but true growth, hers and mine, seems to come in 180 day intervals. In that span of time, she and I both stretch to figure out who we are together, and how to be increasingly independent and apart. Our high and low tides take six months to fully ebb and flow. Sometimes I feel the sand washing away beneath my feet, inducing a vertigo like no other as my toes try desperately to hang on to as many grains of sand as they can. Other times the salty water crashes into my goosebumped shins, reminding me that there’s only going to be a few months in which to enjoy a swim. I’m content with that kind of cycle.
And wouldn’t you know, she turns six and a half today. I know that some folks celebrate half birthdays. We’ve never done that before, but this year we will. Her sixth birthday, which always falls around Labor Day (when very few people are around), was lost in the shadows of both starting Kindergarten and losing her first two teeth (very emotionally) within 24 hours of her birthday. It was an overwhelming time for all of us. She’d left her preschool friends behind with no way to contact them, and didn’t yet know anyone in her Kindergarten class, so her birthday party did not have very many friends that were truly of her own making.
But I do declare, March is a perfect time to celebrate six and half. It’s still cold, quiet, and grey around here. With the tulips still hibernating underneath the frozen ground and first strawberries still three months away, we desperately need some sweetness and color. So, I’m thinking a half cake and some balloons in pink, purple and light blue (her favorites), just for the three of us. Yes, this will do just fine. I’m not sure if we will mark the occasion in years ahead, but for some reason it feels right to do it now.
Happy 6½ Birthday, M. Watching you grow has helped me grow too. xoxo, Mama
Copyright (c) 2014 Kristen M. Ploetz
* I just want to quickly add that yesterday I received the Spring 2014 magazine from the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, and noticed an intriguing (and timely) exhibit that I will likely visit: William Kentridge: The Refusal of Time (runs through May 4, 2014).