Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
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Sidekick Wylet Takes A New Gig

She's been my shadow, or I've been hers, for just over three years now. Where I go, she goes. Where she goes, I follow.

Until now.

I'm home typing and she's twenty minutes away in a little classroom on the top floor of the YMCA. She's talking to new friends I don't know, eating a lunch I didn't prepare, learning things from women who aren't me.

After she turned three Serge and I decided it was time to extend her horizons beyond Mom, Dad, Henry, Max and Milo. The Y near this little town we've moved to is awesome. Has all sorts of children's programs. The pre-school/daycare type program she has started going to for three hours each morning reminds me of my kindergarten class. Scribbles of artwork adorn the walls, chairs that can't cradle a single cheek of my ass pulled up to knee-high tables. Each child has little cubby to store their belongings. A cubby! In toddler world that's pretty much like having your own place. Next thing I know she's going to be begging for posters of The Biebs to hang in her cubby.

The first day we toured the place the teacher, Miss Stephanie, had all the kids say HI VIOLET! Just hearing the chorus of tiny voices shout my daughter's name was enough to make my heart explode all over the room. We're doing this, I told Serge determinedly, pointing my finger for emphasis. It'll be good for her and us (I've never spent the night away from her except when I had Henry) and we have to stop being parenting pussies about letting her go. We are with her 24/7, that can't be good, I said. I mean, look at us! Who would want to be with us constantly? We don't even want to be with us that much.

The next morning, heart pounding, I led my daughter up the stairs and into the class. Her name scrawled in black Sharpie on a red construction paper heart Scotch-taped to the table indicated where she was to sit. My girl. She now has a designated place in the world outside of our home.

Very quickly it was time to leave and I just couldn't. Leave her all by herself in this strange place with people I don't know? How do parents do this, I wondered. They just walk away? That's it? See ya in a few, kid?

In a small, embarrassed voice I asked the teacher if I could watch for a while. She smiled knowingly and nodded to a corner where Violet would be unlikely to notice dumb, old mom lurking.

It was Circle Time. The kids gathered around a calendar and sang about the days of the week and shouted some rhymes about February or whatever and I just stood there swallowing and swallowing and swallowing, trying my best not to look like the over-emotional dork-mom hovering in the corner in workout clothes she probably won't even work out in.

There she was. My girl. My Wylet. Sitting with new friends and learning new songs. I watched her watch the activities, watched her take in the action and look around at all the new faces, and then I watched other girls attempt to hold her hand or point at the owl on her shirt and the enormity of parenting just swallowed me whole.

Bringing home a tiny mewling larvae of a human being is one thing. Feeding, bathing, clothing, entertaining - all of that has been the bulk of my parenting experience thus far. But now, now it's time to release my sweet daughter into the world - if only for these few hours - and hope for the best. Who knows how she'll be received? I think that's what pains me most. What if they don't get my kid? What if they just blow off her amazingness because she's just one of a crowd of kids who are all amazing in their own right?

My heart aches with the vulnerability of it all, of offering my daughter to the world. Because I know how it goes. I know how cruel people can be whether unintentional or intentional and I know how these are the experiences that shape who we are and I want to control it all! I want to micromanage her life and allow people to enter and exit as if actors in a play and if they aren't performing in the way I, the director, would like then I will 86 their asses from Violet's world. Or, you know, I could just lock her in her room until she's 30 at which point I allow her out to marry the kind, young gentleman whom I have background checked and approved and have arranged for her.

What? Is that weird?

I know my daughter inside and out. Every expression that flickers across her face, every body twitch - I know what emotion or mood it indicates and have spent much of my time translating the world and the people in it into terms she understands. Or the reverse: explaining to others what she wants or needs or is trying to tell them. But now I won't be there to explain things to her or others. She's on her own as she learns to negotiate the do's and dont's of the Toddler Kingdom on the 2nd floor, room 205 at the Y. And that kills me, you know? That she might be confused or scared at certain points of the day and wonder where is mom?

As I left I saw her see me, saw her look back to see me walk toward the door and it didn't faze her. And that made me happy/sad.

But listen my sweet baby: if your loneliness in the world ever should faze you just know that I'm right here, Violet. Right here, behind you, cheering you on. And I always will be. Even when you stop looking back to see if I'm still here.

Reader Comments (19)

I worried about all that same stuff too. Leaving your kid at the mercy of others (adults AND children) is hard hard hard, but now that we're a few years into it ourselves, I'm SO GLAD he has those extra friends and caregivers--extra people who truly love him and "get" him--and I know how much richer his life is having that larger circle of experience instead of just day after day with dumb old mom. Hooray for growing up when it also means she comes running back to you at the end of each day.

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteragirlandaboy

Oh my I've cried all day over stuff with my own kids and now I'm crying about yours. Xxoo to you and Wylet...I'm sure she will rock it just like her momma!

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkacy

And now I'm crying..... My girl is in 1st grade, and on the first day of school this year my husband and I walked across the playground with her in the beautiful fall morning light. First days of school were old hat at that point; she'd already done pre-school and kindergarten. BUT, as we made our way across the blacktop I asked her if she wanted to hold my hand. She nonchalantly said no. My eyes immediately welled up with tears. Oh, these babies will always be our babies, no matter how big they get. It is so fun to watch them grow, but bittersweet for sure.

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjenn

i know that feeling all to well. i've done it now 3 times and in a couple of years will do it for the last and final time. it never gets easier, but thank goodness all my kids have been so open and ready for it that they, like wylet looked back and didn't even care. i loved preschool (or those types of programs) i always felt very aware of what was going on everyday and then was a whole new ballgame. the only daily thing you got was a smiley face for good behavior. it took a little while to get adjusted (for me only) that i had no idea what they did all day. and everytime i ask "what did you do today" i get the same answer "i don't know". now i have 2 teenagers and that "letting go" is different but still somehow the same.

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhilary post disappeared on the first try. So let's try this again. At the amazing lab school (part of the College of Education at the university where I teach) that all three of my girls attended, there was a viewing room. It had a two-way mirror so that students in the early childhood education program could observe before they reached the point of actually working in the classroom, but parents were welcome to observe from in there too. I did early on, and periodically over the 6 years that we had kids there. It was amazing. I was blown away by the teachers' and graduate teaching assistants' and undergraduate students' approach to all kinds of situations in the classroom. They may not have known MY kid the way I did, but they sure did know kids!

I'm excited for Violet! I'm also excited for you and Serge!! Also looking forward to follow-up posts on the subject!!

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

in tears. thank you for putting in to words what most mommy's can never adequately explain.

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

holy crap i am balling my eyes out. so well written and said. captures exactly how i feel. dying to know how she did after you left. was she fine? how will she do in the coming days? pls keep us updated. i'm dreading preschool. i want to keep her with me for as long as i possibly can. for my own sake, not hers. but i won't.

February 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Mauk

Lately I been havin' to tell a lotta people: "faze." Versus "phase." No biggie. Just, two different things. Hotcha!

February 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlison

So....I'm crying now. That was beautiful. Rob is looking at me on the other end of the couch like I'm a lunatic.

February 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle

Thank you so much for this. My daughter is almost 17. It sounds lame but I forgot this part. In all of the stress and push and worry of raising a badass teen - I forgot. Her sweet little hands, tiny bits of food from snack time still snarled in her hair, her excited stories about her bosom friend Yessa and what they did that day. Yesterday my daughter took such a major step forward in her life that I'm still reeling. She and her girlfriend of 8 months... lets just say I told her last night she's not a baby anymore. It's so much to take in and I know I'm messing up parts of it because I don't understand most of it. So thank you for this Monica. You've given me a way to circle back to my girl.

February 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura B

@Alison - Well I'll be damned! Still, I look at faze and it doesn't feel like a word! Thanks for the correction, all fixed!

February 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterMonica

This sums up so much of what I feel.... So much so that I'm homeschooling my awesome five year old! She has some health issues, which plays into it a little bit, but mostly I just want her around...

February 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHanni

"......and it didn't faze her." That's a good thing, Monica. Having taught preschool and elementary school for 15+ years I can say that this reaction means she trusts you and knows you will return to get her. Trust is a good thing....You should be proud. :)

February 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteredith

Having just lost my mother 2 days -- this was excruciating to read -- and imagine her feeling those feelings toward me.

February 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersusan

This was just beautifully written.

February 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeri

And no matter how big they get, it's the same feelings for a mom...whether they're 3, 10, or almost 35. It never changes. This was so beautiful missy, made me bawl my guts out, and you know how I get just looking at you kids baby pictures!! Now with your own babies I love that you get it too. I'm missing all that with my Wylet and Henry and it's killing me.

February 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermama true! My son is in his last throes of preschool and the big K is next. Luckily for me, they had a TV outside the preschool room so you could watch what was happening. I think the first year I sent him(he was 3), I stayed and watched the whole time and pretended to come back and pick him up! sugar coating's hard to send your baby to the wolves, so to speak. But it's human nature..they will survive, hunt and learn to become one of the pack. Keep watching after you drop her long as u can, because they won't let you do that in BIG school:)....thank you once again for putting into words what most of us can't!

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermelanie

It doesn't change either, no matter how old they get.....I cry at the beginning of every school year because mine are growing & there's nothing I can do about it.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCelena

I must have missed this. you know, when you are just an observer of other people's lives it feels rather creepy to be enjoying these milestones. Still, as the established auntie of 12 nieces and nephews ( plus one nephew in law) and not counting my friends kids who call me Aunt Gina, I am always thrilled to hear these stories. Almost brings a tear to my eye when you include pictures,(i know, creepy)....I wonder to myself.what's with this 'caring' about families I have never met?! Oh what the what! It's hardly avoidable! You put it out there and we all rejoice when you are happy and feel like crap for you when you are in the dumps. As a childless woman heading into her 50s I find your blog refreshingly real and am always glad to read or watch whatever you put up here. The milestones make me smile. I am POSITIVE that I am not alone in admiring your wonderful family, laughing along or empathizing when things are rocky and miserable. I am glad you wrote this one.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergina

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