Luca and I have a routine that's become a sweet moment right before I tuck her in for the night. We read books, collect stuffed animals (right now it's the two Minnie Mouse dolls she got for Christmas), sing a song, and then I kiss her goodnight. Before I leave her room, I always say to her, "Tell me your favorite part of today."
Sometimes it was something that happened at school. Other days, it was a treat she got before bed or taking a bath with her brother or going to the zoo.
Today, her favorite part was, and I quote, "Going to the doctor."
Yeah, she's not your typical 4 year old. And I like it that way. That girl....she is her own person through and through.
About a month ago, I went online and filled out a form to request a boundary exception for her when she starts kindergarten this fall. We live just a few minutes' walk from a perfectly acceptable elementary school, but the hours of school don't jive well with our schedules. So when my mom suggested we apply to get her into the elementary school across from her house, with the helpful offer to watch her before and after school and walk her to campus and home every day, we couldn't say no. It might help that this school gets excellent ratings, is part of a fabulous district, and is the same school my siblings (well, 2 of them) and I attended.
She was accepted, which was a huge relief and also really bittersweet. Because while I was happy she was accepted into our choice school, I'm still not sure where the last nearly-5 years went. I keep expecting to find them hidden in the back of the kitchen pantry behind old granola bars and lost ziploc baggies. But, of course, it never happens. They just disappeared into the vapor of time.
Since we're out of district, we had about 10 days between the time we got the letter and the last day to secure our spot. And before we could register her officially, Luca needed to catch up on some shots from her 4 year appointment, which we missed because she was sick and I failed to reschedule.
I got to her school early today, rushing her into her backpack and out the door and making it to the Dr just in time for her appointment. The appointment itself was relatively uneventful, with her pediatrician proclaiming her perfectly healthy and 'obviously very smart' (you KNOW I have to gloat about that one, right?). She is 38.2 pounds (50th%) and 44 inches (87th%) and was meeting or exceeding all the markers the pediatrician requested of her. Poor girl did have to get 4 shots, which made her cry, but after that was done she left with a sucker, 3 bracelets, a sticker, and 4 band-aids.
We left from there to her school, where she met one of the ladies in the front office and we got a stack of paperwork to complete. And with that, she's officially signed up and ready to be a kindergartner. I mean...what?!?
A quick call to my mom confirmed Rohan was still napping, so with her blessing I took Luca on a special mommy-daughter date to our favorite local coffee shop. I let her order a chocolate milk and pick a treat (carrot muffin with frosting), and we sat together outside in the warm afternoon sun by a huge fountain, talking about kindergarten. Eventually, she made her way to the fountain and splashed in it a bit.
As I watched, she would dip her hands in the cold water and run to a line of tiles on the ground, crawling on her knees and leaving a single wet handprint on each tile. Something about the carefree sweetness of the moment made me get out of my seat, and before I knew it we were tracing wet fingers on the patio, drawing hearts and writing our initials and using large and small handprints mixed together to create water butterflies.
Without realizing it, time had passed. The shadows were lengthening and the water was no longer cold on our hands. We carried our plate back inside the coffee shop and headed to the car. I reached for her hand in the parking lot and she smiled up at me and said, "I want to walk like a big kid. Can I do it myself?" So I let her. Instead of leading her, I walked beside her, joining in her game of "Don't step on cracks or white lines" until we made it to the car. Side by side.
I know it's just the start of a new chapter. I lose full minutes absorbed in her face and her imagination. I lose full days and weeks just getting by and trying to remember to hold on to this sweet time in her life as tightly as I can while also letting her go. In the small space between our bodies, not linked by our hands, she became less a little kid and more a girl. Independent. Wise beyond her years. Spirited. And tender.
After dinner and a movie and page after page of Where the Sidewalk Ends, I tucked her in under her pink blanket and traced the silhouette of her cheeks with a finger. There is no baby left in that face, but those eyes I stare into are the same eyes I've stared into since the day she was born. She was always this wise, this sage. If she can hold onto any trait of her early years as she moves through childhood and closer to becoming an adult, I hope it's the ability to be completely oblivious to what she's 'supposed' to be or think or say. I hope that moments making water butterflies and sharing carrot muffins are the sweet and mundane memories of her childhood.
"Did you know that some people say there was a man who walked on water and he didn't even fall in?"
"Oh, yeah. I did, honey."
"Where did you hear that?"
"I don't know. Someone told me."
"Oh? And what do you think about that?"
"It sounds like a bigger fib than even kids tell, mommy."
"Well, you know, Luca, sometimes people believe in stories like that because of how they make them feel. Maybe they believe he walked on water and didn't fall in. Or maybe they don't believe it either, but they like how it makes them feel. They want to imagine they could walk on top of water too."
"You know what I think, mommy? I think it doesn't matter about walking on water and not falling in. I think it matters most that you're kind to people. And then maybe if you are kind enough even if they are sad, they can close their eyes and imagine they can walk on water too. Like that man."
"Oh, I like that."
"Me too, mommy."