Monday, October 03, 2005

The decision is made

We were driving home from Colorado with just days to prepare for the start of school. I asked her, "Are you ready for kindergarten? Do you want to go?" I peered at her through the rear-view mirror and waited. This wasn't like asking what flavor ice cream did she want. I knew this was bigger, but did she? We'd been discussing the impending entrance to school-life all summer long; me promoting the upside to leaving home every morning on the yellow bus. I stressed the usual benefits: new friends, new things to learn, lunch, recess, the perfect backpack.

And I felt like some kind of traitor.

Which is why I was suddenly shifting the burden to her. Did she recognize the significance of this seemingly innocent question? Would she see the door I was o
pening at this very moment?

Her answer came slowly. She had thought the thing through and was now delivering her response with the weighted attitude of resignation. I recognized that attitude because I'd seen it years before in her oldest brother when his time came to hop aboard the yellow bus. I will always remember the unease I felt, the sense that I was banishing him from his happy habitat and days spent with his little brother exploring the world around our house. Plus, a new little brother was on the way. He was not ready to go. But what did I know then?

What a surprise it must have been to my young daughter when I caught her gaze in the mirror and said aloud, "Well, okay then. We're not going to school this year." I think she fell more in love with me that day, a gratifying dividend (I will openly admit). But I am due a few.

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