#DadLife – My little girl starts school tomorrow and I don’t think I’m ready for this

Me, tomorrow

Me, tomorrow

This is not a usual Dudes Review Idol post. I just needed to write something and needed to publish somewhere and since I still own this thing, here goes.

As the knife slides through each strawberry, I panic.

“Some days she likes them cut in half. Some days in quarters. Some days not at all. WHAT IF SHE WANTS THESE WHOLE?”

Tuesday is the first day of school for my oldest daughter. The first day I send her off in the more than capable hands of someone who went to college to obtain a degree specifically so they can teach my child how to read, write, do some math and act like a decent human being. But I don’t know them, they don’t know me and there is no way they know my little girl as well as I do or are trained to handle her every need, like if she wants her strawberries in perfect quarter-cut pieces instead of the halves I’m sending her with.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be like this. Literally used to make fun of buddies’ wives who said they cried when their first kid got on the bus. Made fun of the people who made those stupid chalkboards with “My FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL” on them and took pictures and posted them all over Facebook. I knew there would be some sadness having my youngest reach school age, but figured that was because it meant she was closer to graduating high school than I am to when I graduated.

(And this is real school too. Kindergarten. Not some day care/preschool bullshit where people do the stupid chalkboard thing and say ‘My little one is finally at school!’ If the ‘teacher’ has to change diapers or there’s a bona fide nap time, that ain’t school.)

I thought this would be a fun little event, maybe some tears from me and her not wanting to leave her dad. Nope. Wrong. She can’t wait to start and I’m freaking out about if I put cheese on her bologna sandwich if she’ll know it’s OK to take it off and eat it separately or if she’ll starve because she’s afraid to tell anyone and OH GOD SHE’S TOO YOUNG FOR THIS.

Me and her, we’ve been through a lot. When she was born, I was still working at a newspaper. With my wife and my schedule, there were days/nights where I’d bring her into work. I’d throw her in a stroller, go cover some high school game where people would lose their mind because she’s cute AF, then I’d head back to the office, feed and change her, then put her in a porta-crib where she’d sleep while I wrote stories, designed pages and got my work done before we both headed home at 3 am.

When I lost my job, it was just me and her. We’d go everywhere. It was nice having her around and making me forget my professional failures. My piece of shit newspaper fired me for breaking news and folded under advertiser’s pressure and made me feel like I was worthless but that was all forgotten when she would sing along to whatever rock/funk/hip hop track I was trying to brainwash her with, or when she’d sing “You are my sunshine” or when she’d randomly look at me and say “I love you dad.”

Things changed. I started a new job, we had a second kid, got a new house and me and my oldest didn’t spend as much time together. There were still those moments, adventures and everything else that makes raising a child so great; they just didn’t happen as frequently and as one-on-one as before.

We went to pre-pre school together and it was clear school was for her. I was still there for her if someone wouldn’t share or if she needed help pasting whatever the day’s craft was. Last year we had a “drop off” school, two days a week, two hours each, and it was the first time I realized she didn’t need me.

But that was still different. That was two hours. I’m pretty sure I could leave her home alone for two hours and she wouldn’t notice unless there was some Lego she couldn’t snap on right.

Tomorrow she’s getting on a bus at 8:30 and I won’t see her until she gets off the bus at 4:15. That’s eight hours where I can’t help her if she needs it, hug her if she’s sad, tell a silly joke to make her smile or make sure that if she doesn’t eat all her pistachios, she knows she can seal the bag and save them for later and OMG CAN SHE RESEAL A ZIPLOC?

She’s asleep right now. Practically dead. Meanwhile my mind is racing and there’s a terrific chance I don’t sleep a wink. I need to make sure she’s ready and not afraid to get on that bus and sit down and knows when to get off and makes friends and acts polite and remembers to go potty and gets on the bus and knows when to get off the bus and I don’t see how a 5-year old can do this all and you can tell because I’m writing one run-on sentence.

What I really need is to make sure she knows she’ll be OK.

But she already knows. She’s known for a while.

Hopefully once I see her wave goodbye, I’ll know too.