I have been a parent now for almost 8 years. Not the longest tenure, for sure, but a good enough chunk of time to feel like I've got some experience under my belt. I've witnessed milestones in not just one but two children: crawling, walking, talking, growing, going to some types of organized activities and school. I feel I've looked at most with a sense of celebration, not sadness, except for a few notable moments: getting used to Michaela being gone from me all day those first few weeks of first grade, and when she lost her front teeth.
The first I think bothered me because I felt like it was the beginning of Michaela having a life outside of what I have constructed for her, full of people and tasks and interactions that I was not supervising nor even part of. She was beginning to construct a life away from me and enjoy her own set of experiences. This is a huge step for a mom, especially a first-time mom, who has carefully orchestrated every moment of the last five years so that needs are met, hurts are minimal, and plenty of fun has been had by all. And, of course, the somewhat crushing realization that this separation of experiences was only going to continue from that point forward. All I would know what was she chose to share with me, a mommy eager and hungry for my baby girl to be healthy in every way and happy.
The second- losing the baby teeth- was much more concrete: it was changing the look of my little girl. The Michael Strahan-type space between her long-awaited front teeth, which charmed me from their first appearance, was suddenly gone, replaced by a gaping hole that would be filled with brand new adult sized teeth. Her smile was different, her face was different and it took me months to get used to glancing at her and seeing something other than the reliable space and those neatly arranged little baby teeth.
And yesterday I had a third Moment of Monumental Importance, and again it was a mundane-type event that just struck at my heart. Michaela is working out of a Textbook for math this year as opposed to a workbook, and I can assure you that everytime she says the word Textbook, she says it as though it starts with a capital letter. Maybe ALL CAPS. This is a BIG DEAL. This is what the BIG KIDS use in school.
The Textbook needed a cover, even, and we had to go out last week one evening because my TEXTBOOK NEEDS to be COVERED, MOM!! And I had poignant flashbacks of my own grandmother spending hours- HOURS- of her life when I was in school, sitting at our kitchen table carefully covering all of my Textbooks from school with brown grocery bags. Each one was perfectly done, with exact right angles on the inside, exactly even sides, and taped together within an inch of its life. I'm honestly not sure how my covers came off at the end of the school year. And for all my embracing of the domestic arts that my grandmother instilled in me, for every Christmas dress I've sewn, every meal I've cooked from scratch, every homemade craft I've done, I am somewhat of a cop-out failure in the book covering department: we just went to Staples and bought a Book Sock brand cover, which proudly displayed a message on the inside back cover of "Don't Drink and Drive!" which I think is kind of funny. I mean, if your tendency is to go out and get bombed this weekend with some friends, I doubt the little message in your school Textbook book cover is going to be the reminder you needed to designate a sober driver. But maybe not. Maybe that Book Sock message is saving lives.
But I digress.
The point is Michaela is doing math problems out of her Textbook and arrived home yesterday with the results of her first math assignment. It was written on a piece of loose leaf paper, wide ruled, with her name printed neatly at the top, the date underneath it, and the assignment (Pg. 5, #1-12) written below that. And neatly numbered on the side of the paper, as evenly spaced as those precious baby teeth, were twelve perfectly done math problems each with a little star next to it marking it as correct.
I was just blown away.
It was so grownup, so school-age looking, so different than the colorful pictures and counting groups that usually make an appearance on her math worksheets. A true milestone. And seeing her name, neatly written at the top: it's what you imagine when you are pregnant, sitting on the couch with a baby name book, half-watching tv, contemplating all the various names for your baby before they are born. How does it sound? What would it look like written down?
How will it look when he or she writes it on top of a 3rd grade math assignment paper?