My youngest child, my daughter, is starting kindergarten in a few weeks.
I … don’t know how I feel about that.
I am relieved in so many ways. Being at home has been a daily struggle between responsibilities that have to be done and the fun that everyone wants to have. It feels like I have failed on all fronts.
So I am not sad that school is starting, that the kids will be intellectually and socially stimulated for many hours with no effort needed from me.
Except I am. I am sad. She’s not quite 5 yet, as she’s just squeaking by the age cutoff to start school this year. This is probably our last real summer together and I don’t think I’ve taken full advantage of it. But I feel that way every August when I see all the other children who have attended camps and vacations and whatnot.
We hung out at home. The kids watched too much television. We went swimming as many days as possible, we learned that coloring and Legos can occupy them for hours, we ate Popsicles and ice cream sandwiches and played video games.
But we didn’t seem to do anything especially memorable. And for that I feel guilty. It is my daughter’s last summer before starting the decade-plus journey of school. This is when she’ll start growing into her own person, figuring out what it means to be Adele.
She’s already one of the coolest people I know, strong in her convictions and opinions. She’s tough with a forceful personality and would just as soon punch you in the leg as give you the best hug of your life. She’s able to disarm just about everyone she meets while at the same time convincing them she is right, always, no matter what.
I don’t want her to lose that. As difficult as it’s been to parent such a wild child, that wildness is what makes her amazing.
School is hard on people, but especially girls. Maybe that’s because I am one, but I think we have so much more pressure to be a certain way or act a certain way. I don’t want my daughter to be influenced and pushed to be someone she isn’t, just because she feels like she has to in order to fit into a specific mold.
She isn’t a big Barbie person, but loves animals and bugs. She’s fearless in the water, swimming better than any 4-year-old has a right to, diving off diving boards and doing underwater flips. She loves dresses, but doesn’t know or care anything about makeup.
She keeps asking me to cut her long, thick, gorgeous hair as short as her brother’s, mainly, I think, because I force her to let me brush it at least every other day.
So I want her to be a leader. I want her to be who she is, to accept everyone else for who they are, to not be influenced by petty, mean-girl antics.
But that’s part of it, isn’t it? Almost all girls have experienced that part of navigating through friendships and relationships.
I can only hope that when she comes out the other side, when she becomes a full-fledged woman, that she retains that fearless, full-throttle attitude we all love in her.
Because she’s going to do incredible things.
*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on July 22, 2015.