Many of you remember that Kai screamed like a mandrake for his first 10 weeks. I carried him close to my chest in whatever contraption suited me that morning and walked for miles trying to soothe him. When not walking, I stood, bouncing him, attempting to evoke the womb he seemed to miss so intensely, wondering why on earth people congratulated new parents. I was exhausted, with sore nipples, and massive bags beneath my eyes. Eddie and I could not have a conversation, let alone comfort each other with hugs. And my entire family was 400 miles south of San Francisco, offering a keen eye and the advice to get over our hippie bubble of a city and move home.
On one of those epic walks, I entered Glen Canyon, a eucalyptus and redwood shaded canyon that sliced through the southern part of San Francisco. This canyon is a favorite for local Glen Park families to walk dogs and kids, and actually experience nature in a city. Here in the canyon there are coyotes (7 at last count), snakes, poison oak and mud, as well as owls, hawks, native trees, and a meadow with a homemade swing.
With Kai in his Ergo (I believe those were the days when I had just learned I could nurse and walk), I sauntered down a bumpy trail, arriving at a concrete slab of a building surrounded by toys, rocks and trees to climb and logs set out in a circle around a campfire. In the structure, children giggled, wailed, and sang while Kai slept, finally. A woman emerged, tall and sturdy as the Sierra Mountains and inquired about Kai's age. She approached with the confidence of a seasoned mother, admitting she missed her college-aged sons, who were both in SoCal (an interesting link as I missed my parents down there as well). I cannot remember what advice she offered, but I remember feeling like this was a special woman, and I had just happened upon a special place. That was when I first met Mame, the director of Glenridge Nursery School, a 40 year old co-op preschool.
For nearly three years, Eddie and I have attempted to woo Mame into allowing Kai to join her magical school. Everywhere we turned friends were talking about this preschool, admitting to Mame's wisdom and love as well as how much work it takes to be in a co-op. And when Kai finally turned two, we embarked on a half-hearted preschool search, knowing full well where Kai should be going.
On a particularly glum afternoon, when Eddie and I were moaning about the distance between ourselves and our family, we received an email saying we had been accepted to Glenridge. My heart plummeted to my belly. We did it!
Today I will walk Kai through the canyon for his first day at Glenridge. I will pack a lunch. And watch him take his first step towards independence--though he has asked me to stay with him, and I will, today. Mame's entire mission is to prepare children for the independence of kindergarten, and anyone who knows Kai (and me) knows that we need some lessons on that front. So, as he travels through his next adventure, into school and new friends and negotiating with big kids and falling without me there to pick him up and eating lunch elsewhere and singing songs and reading books and learning that he is not the center of everyone's universe (just mine, and Eddie's) and being the little guy and not having friends and being included and planting a garden and hiking and climbing trees and dressing up like a rock star and building a train track and wiping his own bootie, I will have to trust that he will share with me what I need to know about his day and be able to begin retaining his own memories about his life. And I will have to trust that letting go, albeit a little, is healthy for us both.