There she goes

I remember a few things about my first day of kindergarten. My pleated, plaid wool skirt itched. My mom made me pin my bus schedule to my pink sweater vest. My teacher was Mrs. Seath, whom I immediately loved because she had long, curly black hair that she could whip into a braid, lightning fast, secured with a bright scrunchie. 

Even though I was an anxiety-ridden kid, I don’t recall being scared. I don’t know how my mom felt, but now I could hazard a guess, what with the aggressive placement of my bus schedule — love you, Mom! — as I face my firstborn’s foray into elementary school this September.

When Ruby was born, I counted down the days of my maternity leave, each one more anguished than the next, knowing that I had to return to work and leave my dollie-baby behind. I had waited SO LONG to have this baby, and now I was letting her go before I was ready. It ached — even when I was absolutely dying for a long, hot shower alone, not a quick warm one while she yelled from the bouncer on the bathroom floor (if I was lucky).

Baby Ruby

I have no doubt Ruby is ready for kindergarten. She passed her screening, she tells me owls are nocturnal and she started spelling her brothers’ names on her own. She makes puns, which makes a word nerd like me proud.

But what about meeee? My baby, the one who made me a mother, is marching off to school. Literally not one person consulted me about this. RUDE. 

Ruby thinking

Just like that, the protective bubble I’ve been able to create for her will pop. She is wiser than her years; nothing will likely surprise her. And maybe in some cases she may be a leader. But it will surprise me. It will Change Everything. Again.

Is it so wrong to want my children to be my small children and tiny babies … forever … even though I lose my temper and fantasize about full nights of sleep and miss leaving the house without a fight about putting on shoes? 

Am I destined to create a doll collection or a menagerie of strange stray pets for myself as an adult? Because I love everything else. The infatuation. The mispronounced words. The tiny rompers. The sudden, was-it-or-wasn’t-it appearance of a new skill.

I could huff baby heads, fold freshly washed onesies and clap for wide-eyed discoveries for the rest of my life. I am a sicko for it. And I have always resisted change, white-knuckling it, clinging as tightly as my own Velcro babies did to me after they were born. 

The horror stories I heard about parenting before I was a parent were about the collateral damage a baby can inflict on your body. Poopsplosions. Richter-scale meltdowns in checkout lines or when you’re trying to take a conference call. Lack of sleep, or free time. 

But I’ve found the dirty little secret about parenthood, at least for me and some of my friends, is that the hardest part is being the keeper of the letting go. Every single day as you bobble the fragile bubble on the end of the wand, your child sticks a finger out to pop it. It hurts on a cellular level to have something look like success, but feel like a sort of disintegration.  

I am a shameless sentimentalist, so I take photos. Videos. Voice Memos. I hoard art projects. I write about their hijinks. I am the curator of the Dohman Childhood Museum, where I haunt the halls and sigh at the Remember Whens. I am the keeper and archivist of Letting Go.

Katie Dohman lives in West St. Paul with her three kids, two dogs and one husband. She loves them a lot, which is good, because she can’t remember the last time she slept a whole night through.