D and I tried to lead her the best we could, being both her cheerleaders and her sounding board. Championing her toward new and exciting things while at the same time empathizing about the loss of something that had grounded her for so many years.
The first day was strange. We walked her to her classroom. The door was closed and when we opened it almost all of the students were already seated at their desks with a stack of books in front of them. The terror on her face as she looked for her desk was plain. We introduced ourselves to her teacher, briefly mentioning that this was her first year at this school. He seemed immediately receptive and sympathetic. He quelled our fears by saying that he'd make sure she was well taken care of. A handshake and the door closed. On our short walk home I realized I hadn't made plans with B for picking her up at the end of the day. No exit strategy. I obsessed and worried for the rest of the day. I took out my frustration by scrubbing the floors.
When it came time to pick her up we went to her classroom door and of course there were no students inside. Luckily we met a veteran parent (Joe?) who told us they were most likely at an assembly in the auditorium. They were, and we reclaimed our Bean.
On our walk home she talked non-stop about the band program, which was the assembly she had just been to. She was excited about it, mostly because she already had a year of playing under her belt, whereas at this new school they don't allow students to start band until their 5th grade year. I breathed a sigh of relief as she prattled on about reeds and sheet music, thinking "Well, at least her day ended well!"
I didn't want to press her for information, so when we got home I poured her a glass of ice water and we sat around the kitchen island. She held nothing back. In short, she 1) got the best 5th grade teacher at the school (according to 5th grade students in other classes), 2) made 3 friends, 3) had a most empathetic teacher who called her up to his desk after recess and asked her how her day was going, 4) missed snack because she couldn't find the snack tables, and perhaps most important of all 5) was excited to go back.
This morning was a little different. Her class wasn't in the classroom, but were lined up somewhere on the blacktop. We had no idea where they were so we just hung out in the melee waiting for B to recognize someone. D and I stayed cool "No big deal, honey. It's only the second day, we'll get it figured out." And she just sidled up to me and casually slipped her hand into mine. My heart jumped. I stayed cool. Then it was all "I see my friends!" And she was off.
We have an exit strategy today. I'm feeling good. And I'm sitting in awe of this little person that D and I made. This child with an amazing capacity for change and adaptation, who stays cool and collected in even the most terrifying situations. Obviously, she's been working some things out in her dreams, anxiety and whatnot, but I'm just marveling at her overall demeanor. She's got this great mix of sensitivity and up-for-anything spirit of adventure. And she was so comfortable telling us all about not only the day's events, but how it all made her feel. She's not ashamed to feel scared or embarrassed because she knows those things will pass. Unbelievable. She's 9 and she's more self-aware than most adults I know. Please, Jesus, let this last! Sometimes I feel like I can see into a future where we're sitting around a table drinking coffee and sharing our lives on an adult level. Eye to eye, heart to heart.
A number of years ago, after I had already moved to California, my mom sent me a plaque that reads "We've been mother and daughter from the very start, but the friendship we've found is God's gift to my heart." I keep it where I can see it every day and I've memorized it because it rings true. It makes me feel good to know that she and I feel the same way about our adult relationship. I'd like to be able to pass that sentiment down to B some day. Right now I know I still need to be Mom, and sometimes even Mean Mommy. But I think if I do that and play my cards right, I'll have built the foundation that's necessary to have that coveted friendship. But today's focus is a little more immediate; making sure I know which school room my 9 year old is in before the dismissal bell rings.