The sunlight reflected in her brown eyes and highlighted the gold in her brown hair as she focused intently on the high school coursebook that she held in her hand. She perused the book in front of her, chewing her lip, brows creased in concentration, thinking of her four year course plan. As I glanced at the utter focus on the young face, on the threshold of yet another phase in her young life, my heart constricted with an overwhelming feeling of love for this young person who was just a little bundle in my arms some years ago. I made a mistake as I held her, I blinked! And here we are, at this juncture in life. She is on her way to high school, deciding upon the courses she wishes to take.
Sahana is going on to high school this year and I am not ready. Just like I wasn’t ready when my fantastic radiologist took a look at the ultrasound report and said, “This baby isn’t growing in the womb, she is not thriving. We need to take her out now. Call your obstetrician. Get admitted tomorrow!” I remember sitting down in the nearby chair, looking up at Sean and saying, “I am not ready!”
Ready or not, she came. Grayish blue eyes, snub nose, pink skin, coconut head, rosebud mouth. She looked up at me with a stern expression as she tried to focus her eyes on this face looming large on her. “Here I am, mother. I am yours for a while. Yours to love, yours to nurture, yours to cherish, yours to discipline, yours to mold, yours to encourage and support. I am yours to help me to be the best I can possibly be! Are you up to the task, mother? You better be, because I am not going back!”
She, of course, said none of these. She just kept looking at me, or somewhat in my direction with all the loveliness, all the cuteness, all the sweetness that is possible in this entire universe. And I thought of nothing of the responsibility that I held in my hands either. I was happy! No, wait, that doesn’t quite say it. I was ecstatic. I was ecstatic that she was born, I was ecstatic that she was healthy, I was ecstatic that I still lived to watch her grow, I was ecstatic my husband held my hand and helped me breathe through the contractions. When the neonatal unit took Sahana away to administer the necessities, the other doctors took it upon them to sew up my torn body. While they worked on me I thanked everyone who happened to be within my eyesight. Sean reminds me that I supposedly thanked every single person in the delivery room with enthusiasm till I passed out from exhaustion.
There were many firsts, of course. The teething, the first step, the first words, the feel of little soft hand in mine as we both entered her preschool. I don’t remember who had the most trouble letting go of the other’s hand, it probably was me. I sat outside the preschool with other anxious mothers, and tensed every time I heard children cry, convinced that it was mine. I was later told she didn’t cry at all but watched everybody with interest.
We moved to US after her preschool years. She started kindergarten in a new school, in a new country, far away from her familiar world full of friends, neighbors, family. I felt an emptiness in my stomach as the big black and yellow bus swallowed my curly haired little girl to her first day of kindergarten. I was waiting, anxiously, at the bus stop for her when she got off the bus. “How was your first day of school?” I asked, nervous. “It was great! School is the best thing ever! And I think I met an angel!” she replied. She had made friends with another little girl who had blue hair and beautiful blonde hair. Her angel.
At the end of fifth grade, I started panicking again. Two dreaded words – middle school. I had grown up from age 5 to age 18 in one school with the same set of friends. My daughter was going to leave all her friends to go to a different middle school. And I heard stories of the horrors of middle school from friends in this country. Meanness, popularity, need for acceptance, dejection – all these become major factors as children navigate through the confusing corridors of middle school. I read books, I talked about the non importance of popularity, I talked about being herself, focusing on her schoolwork. She was nervous, but I was petrified. Again I watched nervously as she boarded the bus first day to middle school. The reply to ‘how was school’ wasn’t as exuberant as in kindergarten but it was still good. Middle school was a blur. She did well, she seemed happy bar a few occasions. Just recently, on a walk, she confided how difficult the first year in middle school was. How lonely she was. And friendless. Media center was her solace, she escaped there whenever she could and hid behind a book till she started finding like minded children. As the months went by, she became happier. Now middle school was something she was sad to leave behind. She didn’t tell me because I couldn’t help her and she thought she could handle it on her own, in her own terms. I was saddened and heartened to hear this. Sad to realize what she had gone through, happy to hear she learnt to be happy.
A new beginning yet again, another transition – high school, preparation of adulthood. Although, I am not ready, I do not have a choice. Everyday as my daughter stands a little taller and I stoop just a little tiny bit, as her face glistens with the freshness that only youth can boast and a new tiny wrinkle appears on my face, I see life slowly coming to a full circle. Many people don’t understand this, but I truly revel at every new stage in my life. Middle age is no exception. I have lived my youth, Sahana is starting to live hers. What an exciting time for her and what a simply amazing time for me to watch her bloom.
It is a new beginning for me as well, as a parent. With my first born, every stage of her life has been a new beginning for me. I have often been flustered and confused. Sometimes, the journey hasn’t been fun. I have had embarrassing moments galore but I have also learnt as I went along. I have identified my strengths and weakness. I have focused on my personal growth as a human and as a parent.
As I said, I am not ready yet to let go. I will never be ready to let my beautiful child go. But I have taken the first step. I will learn – to let go of her hands when she is ready. And will watch, yes anxiously, and learn with her as she steps into a new beginning, yet again.