You settled into being six years old a few months ago now. It is, thus far, a slightly taller version of five: the same intent love for Legos; the same need to run and jump and explore; the same fierce desire to snuggle together for books at bedtime. Your blankie is still your most treasured possession.
There is also, in the last two months, a new found fascination with all things football. It is your father's fault; he got in there before I could snag you with an appreciation for something more civilized. We recently interviewed a string of potential babysitters and, after (mostly) patiently listening to them answer our boring, adult questions about things like discipline, you got to ask them your burning question: "What is your favorite football team, college and professional?"
We hired a 49ers fan. I hope you approve. At least you are quickly learning to add by 2s, 3s, 6s, and 7s.
This is the year of kindergarten, the tip of the iceberg of crumpled papers in backpacks, never-ending school concerts, and days governed by the bell. On your first day, I gave you a smooth pebble to carry in your pocket, telling you I had loaded it with kisses and all you needed to do was touch it if you were scared or lonely and needed a reminder of my love. That afternoon I stood with a crowd of other parents, anxiously holding my breath and waiting for school to end. The school was so big and that day you seemed so small. Would you leave holding back tears? Confused? Hating school and begging never to return? Then I saw you coming through the double doors, tiny amid those big kids, wide-eyed but confident. You slipped your hand into mine; as we walked down the sidewalk you looked up me with a soft smile and said, "I only needed to use my rock twice!" My heart soared like a balloon released from its weight.
Sending you to school feels like another big step in the sometimes painful, often joyful process of watching you slowly grow ever more independent. Inevitably more and more of your day will happen away from my eyes. Already I feel out of touch with your social scene in a way I never was before this, gleaning whatever I can about your friendships from the snippets you tell me after school. It's different, but not sad. There is something right about watching you branch out, bright and sure of yourself. Because that's the point of this parenting gig, right? Somehow we hope to help you feel so deeply rooted and loved here that you are able to go out confidently on your own.
Each weekday as we leave for the walk to school, I speak a blessing over you, our own private ritual for transitioning into that part of the day. I love the final lines: "May he bring you home rejoicing at the wonders he has shown you. May he bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors." They capture the heart of what parenting is for me right now, what it will be throughout our lives together--that opening of the arms to send you out in the world and the joyful opening of the arms to welcome you home.