Another Milestone (When All I Really Want is a Rest Stop)

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My baby girl just graduated from preschool. I know, it’s not Berkley or Columbia, but it is the first step. Admittedly, I didn’t get all worked up as we counted down to the big day. I did, however, dress nice for the occasion, bring my camera and make sure my husband had flowers in hand (because God forbid someone got a bouquet and she didn’t).

The children marched into the makeshift auditorium to “Pomp and Circumstance,” wearing paper hats that reminded me of the crowns I used to get from Burger King. They said the “Pledge of Allegiance” and sang “Turkey in My Belly” (long story). While the teachers called them up to receive their “diplomas” (copies of Dr. Seuss’s Oh! The Places You’ll Go), one child yawned, one burped and another slid out of her chair. The ceremony closed with a slideshow of the children over the course of the year, and that’s when it started to hit me: my baby is growing up.

It happens at weird times. Like when I suddenly realized Ava could turn on the faucet without a stool. Or when her Barbie told Flynn Rider she’s just not that into him. But there’s nothing like watching a slideshow that documents how much your child has grown over the course of the school year, especially when it’s accompanied by a Jack Johnson tune. That’s just not fair.

In just a few months, Ava will be attending public school 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. She will have homework, new friends, access to playground equipment without my supervision and, worse yet, a dullsville uniform and clear-plastic backpack, you know, so you can see if she’s packing heat. It doesn’t help that she has no desire to go to kindergarten. She dropped out of her ballet class, explaining that she already learned enough steps to one day become a professional ballerina. In her mind, the same logic applies to kindergarten: she can spell “mom,” draw a rainbow and make a peanut butter sandwich. What more to life is there?

I’m starting to agree. Because ever since hitting this pre-k graduation milestone I’ve had an overwhelming feeling that things are going too fast–that time is getting the best of me.

Last night, my husband and I were sitting on the front porch admiring Ava as she danced through the sprinkler. Then he turned to me and asked, “Do you every worry about Ava being lonely?”

“No.” Sometimes Ava shuts the door and pretends to use the bathroom just to get away from us.

“Why?” I asked, “Do you want to have another one?” Please no. Please no. Please no.

“No,” he said (whew), “I just worry if something happens to us. We aren’t going to live forever, you know.”

“Actually, you don’t know that.”

Clearly, I don’t handle conversations surrounding our inevitable death and the subsequent orphaning of our child very well. Go figure.

I was irritated at Ray the rest of the night for being such a Daddy Downer. He doesn’t get that I’m perfectly happy living in my sunshiny world of blissful ignorance, especially when it comes to our daughter. Of course she’ll always want to hang out with me. Of course she’ll never mock my clothes or hair. And of course cryogenics will work. I have to believe this, however naïve it may be, because the alternative is too much for my heart to bear.

Depending on your perspective, milestones can mark the distance you’ve traveled or distance you have remaining. It’s like seeing the glass half-full or half-empty. Ava’s early accomplishments were entirely joyful: her first steps, first word, first pedicure. But it’s getting harder and harder to celebrate her milestones without also being painfully aware that time is flying by for me. But I can’t focus on that. There’s no point. I don’t know how much distance remains to the destination; I simply have to take each day–each milestone–as the gift it is intended to be.

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