In My Ohio

​On Belle's First Day of Kindergarten

Darren C. Demaree
​In the abstract, a six-year old girl going to kindergarten is a happy thing. It’s a marker of development, it’s a pivot in the progression of the expectations we have for the six-year old, and those moments are important. The girl going to kindergarten is a good thing; moreover, she is thrilled to be going. Kindergarten means more friends, more freedom, and in the case of my daughter, it even meant the addition of a classroom bunny into her world. She literally counted down the days until kindergarten began.
My role, not just as her father, but as the daily, primary caregiver is to relax my shoulders a bit. I’m supposed to be happy that I have shepherded her to the point in her life where she doesn’t need me to do as many things for her anymore. I am happy that she’s happy. She is having a blast, and that warms my heart.
I miss her though.
We’ve spent the last six years hanging out every day. Every week we would go to reading times at the library, or the zoo, or to the movies. When my son was born, we just integrated him into our plans. We didn’t do much differently with Thomas around; it was still Belle and I going adventuring all the time. I was there when she first spoke, when she first walked, when she had her first ice cream, when she got her first surprise kiss from a little boy, and now most of the firsts I will find out about after the fact, if she wants to tell me about them.
There will be a distance between us now. There is supposed to be, and I get that. She is supposed to find her first little bit of independence, and that independence means less dependence on me. I am still the driver, the cook, the caretaker, but she is doing some of her own decision making now.
 So, now Thomas and I take her to school in the morning, and we do our own adventures. I can concentrate on him; his development (potty training, etc.), and he can start to fill out into the little person he’s going to become. It will be special to me in the same way it was special between Belle and I. When we pick up Belle later in the day she will be excited to see us, and she will manage to tell us a whole days' worth of stories in about thirty seconds.
When we got home from taking her the first day, my wife got herself ready for work, Thomas watched a show, and I went down to the basement to cry a little bit. There was no sobbing, because I was happy for her. I was proud of her. There were a few tears that had to work around my smile, and that is because I wasn’t quite sure I could not be as involved as I had been.
To my credit I haven’t been showing up at the school to volunteer all the time. I have joined the PTO, and volunteered to help with their reading program and their sports boosters, but there has been no hovering. I needed to go cold turkey. I needed to have my cry, and move on. Belle certainly has moved on. She charges into that school. She uses all of her energy there. When she walks out she walks out slowly, because she’s not so sure she wants to leave. She is a kindergartner, which is a fantastic thing, and all the emotion that comes along with that is a special thing, as well.