My Daughter is Five. Parenting Starts Now.
I remember kindergarten.
I remember my teacher Mrs. Steiner with her curly black hair, thin-rimmed glasses and less-than-tall physique.
I remember being dropped off in the morning. The kindergarten kids had a separate side entrance in the building made of brick, but from our safe haven we could see the big kids and the yellow school buses barreling up the school’s main driveway and we watched with a mix of anticipation and fear.
I remember walking home across the big field after school, sometimes in green grass, sometimes through feet of snow, but despite the unpredictable weather, always excited to see my mom and have a snack…even if I wasn’t really hungry.
I remember going for sleepovers at my neighbor’s house and calling my dad in the middle of the night (probably 9pm or so, but middle of the night for a 5-year-old) to come and get me. I remember the comfort of walking home with him in my pajamas, my hand in his, and the feeling of seeing my mom’s tired face waiting for me.
Before that, I don’t remember much of life.
I remember a big black dog from when I was a toddler and being scared of it.
That’s about it.
My daughter is five years old now. She just started kindergarten.
And it has occurred to me that as amazing and challenging and inspiring as parenthood has been thus far, it really all only begins now.
Yes, the past five years have built a great foundation. She can walk, talk, potty, say please and thank you, dress herself, write her name, pour a glass of milk. All crucial things, of course.
But now, from now on, she will not only learn, she will remember.
She will really remember.
She will take elements of the every day from here on in and keep them with her forever. She will develop her sense of self, her sense of others, and her sense of the world around her, and it will stay with her, like an imprint on her mind. She will see things and taste flavors and visit places and then revisit them often, long after she has left. She will hear our words and see our actions and sense our emotions, and they will be more crucial than anything we have done thus far…more amazing, more challenging, more inspiring.
Because she will remember.
So what do I want her to remember?
I want her to remember Taco Tuesdays. I want her to remember after-school ice cream trips. I want her to remember sitting in the backseat of mommy’s car with the sunroof open and the music turned up loud. I want her to remember noisy, boisterous dinners with her family. I want her to remember the genuine joy in our faces when she bounds down the stairs in the morning. I want her to remember baking pumpkin loaves. I want her to remember sitting down at the kitchen table to do her homework every night. I want her to remember the odd time-out and how it made her feel to get it. I want her to remember the kids who were nice to her on the playground. I want her to remember the kids that weren’t so nice. I want her to remember how she reacted to both, how they made her feel. I want her to remember days at the beach and Friday movie nights and reading in bed with a flashlight.
And it’s my job to help her remember all that and more.
It’s my job to amaze and challenge and inspire.
It’s my job to create the memories and moments she will look back on when she has a child of her own.
And now, five years in, I feel like I am just getting to work.