Last week was a special one for me. My kid and I got to spend a few days at home by ourselves (i.e. mom not around), and I had to drop her at school in the morning, pick her back up when she was done. This is rare for me since I am usually at work when she goes to school.

She started first grade that Monday, and so those were the first few days of full day school for her, a big step from just three hours of school in Kindergarten. She now gets to spend the whole day there, be responsible for eating her lunch etc. Like most parents, I feel a bit ambivalent about this step in my kid’s life. The little duckling that you felt needed “24-hour protection” (disguised as love) must now explore the world beyond your shadow. Of course you know you have to let it be so, but a part of you now wants to be like the young one’s shadow – always there, ever-ready to protect it from any danger, any worries, any discomfort.

The first day, I dropped her off by car even though the school is less than a mile away. The next day, I asked her if we should walk instead. She flipped back and forth a few times. She then said Can I ride my bike and go by myself? I guess this duckling wants to shoot out of the shadow! I smiled at her and said no. She said Oh, So you and Mom don’t think I can go by myself? But there are “walkers” in school – they walk by themselves. I answered carefully, but truthfully I am not yet sure if I should let you do this by yourself. Maybe after some time you can walk with other kids and go by yourself. But for now, I want to take to you school. I really like taking you to school. She agreed to that and she said Ok. Let’s walk.

As we walk, I see so many folks in the neighborhood all heading towards the school. Moms and Dads taking little kids sometimes accompanied by babies/toddlers in their strollers and wagons. In some cases, the family dog trots along wagging its tail. There are also many kids small and big walking by themselves. A wonderful scene indeed on a warm, bright, sunny day, with so many people out in the streets, kid-voices filling the air! There was a huge playground next to the school that we had to cross – it was lush and green, freshly mowed grass with a little morning dampness and all. It all somehow felt very lively. I listen to my kid chatter about her school. She asks whether I am going to pick her back up by car or not. I reply that I do not know yet. She then tells me If you are going to walk, can you bring me a snack so that I can eat while we walk back? How could I refuse?

As we reach the school, we notice that we are a few minutes early and so wait outside one of the doors. I remind my kid about her lunch – but she is already in a hurry to talk with a couple of other kids she recognized. As I stood next to her, and she turns and says Dad, I am supposed to stand with the other kids here. You can stand next to me or you can stand over there with the other parents. A mom advises a 1st grade sister that she should make sure that her little brother who is in Kindergarten finds his classroom. A little toddler is suddenly upset that he couldn’t get to hug his “big” brother and sister before they go to school. His mom says he can still do it as they have not gone in. He goes over and gives a hug to both of them, and walks back sullenly still holding a long face. Don’t worry – you will see them in the afternoon reassures his mom.

The doors open. I wait with my eyes permanently fixed on my daughter. This is so that in case she turns to look back at me to say bye, I want to make sure she is not left searching. She walks through the doors chatting excitedly with another kid without looking back, and soon disappears. I think to myself – You sentimental fool! You are as bad as that toddler!

I walk back home thinking what a beautiful, pleasurable 15 minutes that was! You don’t get to experience this if you drop your kid by car. You have to wait in a line of cars, imprisoned in a shiny, metal box, temperature controlled with the radio/CD-player playing your favorite music or news. You probably are talking on the phone to someone else. You are still in your own shell, your own world – disconnected with so much life happening outside. Then a helper at the school opens the car door, your kid gets down, says good-bye and leaves. You head back to whatever you were doing. Interruption over – back to your world. It’s just not the same …

I love walking my kid to school although I don’t get it to do that often. And soon, she will probably forbid it 🙂

PS: Regarding warm, bright, sunny school days. Here in my neck of the woods, this doesn’t last long. If the opportunity arose, will I be walking my kid in the middle of January? Hmm… we’ll see.

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