This morning I dropped my three-year-old daughter off for her first day of preschool. She had been impatiently waiting for this day for months. In the parking lot she grabbed her ladybug lunch bag and whooshed away from me and my husband who trailed along behind her with the baby like her own little entourage. In the classroom, we helped her find her cubby and her nametag, put her Cat in the Hat stuffed animal in her sleep sack for naptime, and then watched her run off with another little girl tugging at her sleeve. I turned to the teacher and asked, “So…what do we do now? Hang out for a while?” She smiled gently and replied, “or…just go. Looks like she’s ready to play.” That was it, huh? Just go. There were no teary goodbyes, no hysterics, no peeling-of-the-child off the leg of my pants; just a quick hug and we were out the door, past the boy wailing for his mama and the little girl already in the arms of the assistant teacher, getting her back patted while she quietly sniffled into his shirt.
But it wasn’t that simple. Outside the classroom we peeked through the glass window and watched Macy settle herself at the craft table. Other parents hovered around us, some looking anxiously through the window, others gripping their child tightly by the hand as they walked into the classroom. I could have stood there all day, just watching, but I knew in my gut that Macy would be fine, and that, as Miss Cindy said, we had to just go. In the parking lot I passed another family snapping pictures of their child in his bright backpack and new sneakers, and a mom visibly crying as she drove away in her minivan. It struck me in that moment what an incredible feat it is to leave your child in the hands of another, and it made me realize how much I have in common with the parents of the students I teach at Stoneleigh-Burnham School.