Dropping Off the 7.32 Year Old at School

When I took the 7.32 year old to school this morning her immediate circle of friends wasn’t there, and as a result she spent a decent chunk of time just wandering around the schoolyard, looking rather adrift, then climbing around the outside of the play structure alone, occasionally looking over, catching my eye, and giving me a smile, the “don’t make a big deal about this smile” version. She seemed glad to have me there.

She also seemed a bit lonely, which made me sad, and I was glad when her two best friends appeared at the far side of the yard and started wandering in her direction. They were delighted to see her, hollering her name in gleeful, unrestrained fashion. I gave the 7.32 year old a kiss, said goodbye, and watched her run across the yard toward her friends, but she unexpectedly dashed past them and headed for a small patch of flowering bushes next to the school building instead.

The 7.32 year old dashed back in my direction, smiling at her friends in greeting as she passed them, ran up to me, and gave me a flower bud that she’d taken off the bushes. She smiled, a bigger, less constrained smile, accepted another kiss, then skipped off with her posse, all three of them chattering a mile a minute.

I left the school and walked to my car, thinking about how hard it is to stop myself from mapping my own schoolyard heartaches onto my daughter, and how important it is to let her experience loneliness and other difficult feelings for herself. But I also thought about how sweet she is, and how one small gesture from her can instantly make me deliquesce into a burbling plash of gratitude and love, and how the many moments of parenting-related exhaustion and frustration feel like a more than worthwhile price to pay for the opportunity to have her in my life.

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