Three mornings a week, I pull our van up to the front of Miss J's elementary school about three minutes after the tardy bell goes off (I know this because I hear the tardy bell from my driveway when I'm shoveling kids into the van). Two days a week, Miss J doesn't have school, which is why I'm not three minutes late for school on those days (although I do get to be late for ballet on Tuesdays). And just so you know, it's not nearly as traffic-jammy in an elementary school parking lot when you're three minutes late, and I'm perfectly all right with you believing it's strategically planned.
Anyway, once we get there, I walk around the van and open the sliding door, at which point I extract my slow and distractable six-year-old (she is my daughter, after all) and begin our regular dropping-Miss J-off-at-school routine, which goes a little something like this:
I am bear-hugged and sloppily kissed.
I spit-clean the toothpaste from Miss J's face and remove any necessary eye boogers.
I readjust her hair bows.
I remind her to show the love of Jesus at school.
I am bear-hugged again and told that I'm loved.
I am told that I'll be missed.
I am waved to.
Miss J bounces about ten feet in the direction of the school building, where she pauses and I am waved to again.
I am shouted at that I am loved.
I return the "I love you" and shoo Miss J towards the school.
I am shouted at that I'll be missed.
Miss J turns around, approaches the door, then turns around again. I am blown several kisses.
I laugh and shoo her away again, shouting "Hurry up!"
I am grinned at. And then waved to.
Miss J opens the door and finally enters the building, where she turns around to wave goodbye.
She walks partway down the hallway and turns around to see if I'm still there. If I'm there, she waves and blows kisses to me...every fifteen feet or so...all the way down the long front hallway of school.
Man, does this kid make my heart overflow.
This is what my kindergartner does every single day of school...without fail. Sometimes, I play it up and throw her over my back and run her into the building, other times, if we're running more than the average three minutes late, I tell her not to wave and to just "Run for it!" (which cuts out about half the waving and puts the whole scene into chipmunk speed). If I have to sign Miss J in at the office (please Mom, stop shaking your head...no one's ever died of being late), just when I'm sure she's halfway to her class, she pops her head back into the office to say "I love you!"
Such security in her Mama's love and
Such sweet innocence in expressing it.
One of these days, I want to bring my camcorder to school and try to capture this window in time, when Mama's love meant everything. I want to remember it forever. Cherish it, knowing that this is how every little child should be allowed to feel at this age, as if they are the most treasured possession on Earth. Allowed to feel precious. Allowed to trust. Allowed to love whole-heartedly and with no fear because their mothers have nurtured them and taught them how to love.
Miss J's silly schoolday routine is a beautiful picture of what it means for a six-year-old to have a healthy attachment. She's confident enough to be away from me for part of the day...she's not clingy or scared...she makes friends easily...loves her teacher yet loves and trusts me more...she's eager to come home to me and thrilled to see me when I pick her up. Securely attached and beautiful.
Yet this story has a sad side, too. It's bittersweet. Because a few years ago, I had another kindergartner. Another little girl that I dropped off every day three minutes late, hugged goodbye and told her that I loved her. Another little face that I spit-cleaned, and a little heart that I reminded to follow Jesus. But Miss M didn't have the same start to life as Miss J: her first "mom" didn't nurture her or teach her to love and trust, didn't make her feel like she was precious; the most treasured possession on Earth.
The difference between my girls hit me like an unexpected blow to the gut this year when Miss J started kindergarten, waving fourteen hundred times every morning with that silly grin and the light of love in her eyes. Hug, kiss, smile, laugh, wave, repeat.
"Bye, Mama! I love you! I'm going to miss you, Mama!"
You see, Miss M never looked back.