Tomorrow You Start Kindergarten, Today I Am Selfish
By Lili Zarghami on September 05, 2012
It’s the day before your first day of Kindergarten. Right now, you’re out with your dad on your last of the three of your “adventures.” Today it’s running around the city visiting no fewer than two playgrounds. The morning started off pouring rain. That didn’t stop any one of you, though. Frankie, you put on rainboots and asked your dad to carry an umbrella for you just in case. Of course he said he would. To say that you’re lucky to have a dad who is willing to take you anywhere your hearts desire is an understatement of momentous proportions. For the first five years of your life, he has been your 24/7 on-call cruise director. And I think today is probably a little sad for him.
As your parents, we’ve been questioned on why we didn’t send you to nursery school or preschool or pre-K. The simple answer is: why would we? You have a dad who has taught you whatever he can cram into your little heads - far more than any other five year old we know. You are smart, smart-assed, worldly, and meet new or strange or sometimes scary experiences with the sort of openness that most adults won’t ever achieve. You don’t know how to read. You don’t know how to count very well above 13 - and most often leave poor old 11 off the list entirely. Your conception of what the days of the week are consist mostly of whether I go to work that day or not. Or if it’s a Flea Market day (Saturday). That one you know very well. By the end of this year I have no doubt that you will know all of those things and you will see us as knowing a little less.
I’m scared today. I’m scared that you are going to leave the safety of our nearly ever-present watch over you. I’m scared that for 7 hours out of any given day you will be under someone else’s care for the very first time. You’ll have each other - a concession that we asked the school to make for you despite the fact that they’d rather have you separated. If we separated the two of you, I’m sure you would’ve been fine. I’m not so sure that we would have been. Having each other there as the watcher when we cannot be gives me some small solace. Despite your fighting, you love each other deeply and are truly each other’s best friend.
Allow me the moment of motherly sappiness: I can’t believe how big you are now. When you two were born, it seemed impossible that you’d ever be bigger than the handful of flesh that you were. The first time I saw you in your separate isolettes, I cried at the sight of you. At just three and a half pounds each you were far, far too small for this world and I couldn’t protect you from it anymore. Each day from the one on which you were born two months too soon has been a step in letting you go. But even when we were letting you go - Frankie running an acre away at the Botanic Gardens not caring that you were leaving us far behind, and Evander climbing every possible physical hurdle in your path, and then inevitably jumping off of it - either your dad or I were there. We never held you back, though many, many times I wanted to. You were my babies after all.
Even now, when one of you comes stumbling half-drunk with sleep out of your bedroom at night and your dad scoops you up, I marvel at your long, lanky bodies and how your limbs dangle off of his adult-sized grip on you. Despite how much I wish you’d just sleep for one full night (which neither of you has ever been that capable of), I relish the chance to stroke your hair, or run my fingers over your backs without you wiggling away. I can still see, but just barely, the baby that is still inside of you in moments like that. Evander when you rub your face in the mattress, you move in exactly the same way that you did when you were an infant. And Frankie your nightime thrashings and ability to take up a queen-sized bed with your tiny frame have changed very little since that time too.
I know I’m not unique in wishing that I could have your baby time back. Your dad and I had a horrible time of your first two years, but I feel like I missed it entirely. You’ve heard us joke to other parents that we wouldn’t wish twins on our worst enemies and that is a truth that no one other than the parents of twins can know. If we got one of you to go to sleep or stop crying, inevitably the next one would start. Once you started crawling, we could never just follow one baby without wondering what the other had gotten into the ten seconds our eyes were off of you. For many months after you started walking confidently on the playground, Evander, Frankie bore the brunt of a curtailed freedom. I would scoop her up quickly as soon as you disappeared knowing that your ability to get yourself into a dangerous spot was impressive, and she was more than happy to be held still.
Today I’m wading through tearful posts of moms sending their kids off to school and first time parents marveling at their brand new babies. And part of me wants reverse the order in which I find myself with those new moms. I wish I had the hours back in which I could marvel at the length of your eyelashes or the grip of your impossibly small fingers. I wish that tomorrow I wasn’t sending you off into the world without me. I know it's selfish not wanting to send you out there. But sending you out to be your own person without us is the ending to a chapter in which we had you all to ourselves. You have made us laugh so hard and you have frustrated us (me to the point of tears at times), but those laughs and those frustrations were uniquely ours. I don’t want to share you.
Frankie I don’t want you to lose your remarkable idiosyncrasies. You have never been a girly girl who just played with dolls and colored in the lines. You make up words and draw worlds of characters in crayon, and happily clash swords with your brother. Evander you are so sweet and so sensitive but have never feared putting on a costume of your own making to proudly walk the streets in. I want you two to hold onto your quirks, your intelligence, your creativity, your kind-heartedness and not let the world squash it into neatly fitting norms.
But after today, what I want will matter less and less. And I guess if I’m being truly honest, that is really where my fear lies. I want to make you good people. I want to be the one to remind you of your manners, and encourage you to jump, to point out the strangeness of a snapdragon, to hold you tight when you’re stung by a bee. I want your dad’s irreverence and big words and dramatic diatribes to influence you. All we’ve got left for that though, is this afternoon.
So, despite the fact that it normally annoys me to no end, I hope that today you get filthy dirty at the playground. That you come home later than the other kids do because you’re investigating some yet undiscovered surprise that this city has secreted away. I hope you eat icees from the icee man at the playground. But if your dad makes you come home earlier than you would like to, know that he did that for me. Because for one more night, I want you to snuggle up on the couch next to me while I brush the hair away from your eyes and feel the weight of your bodies pressed into me. And tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll let you go.