Olivia starts Pre-K in just two weeks. 2 WEEKS!!! Since she first got accepted into the school, we've done nothing but talk up how awesome it's going to be. She gets to go to a big girl school, there's a friend of hers from daycare who she'll know, they have 401(k) and every Friday is 'Hawaiian Shirt Day.' On top of all this, Pre-K in New York is universal, which means that anyone in the universe can attend and it's absolutely free!
Yet with all the awesomeness that is in store for us, there are still plenty of things we have to adjust to and potentially worry about. Our morning commute, which is currently a 3 minute walk to daycare, now turns into a walk to the bus/subway, dealing with potential transit delays, and another brief walk to the school. Our child, who is notoriously not a morning person and still fights us over getting ready, is going to need learn to cooperate with us more to arrive on time. There are new teachers, new kids (and their parents) to befriend or avoid, and an all new facility to get used to. Basically there's a lot of change coming, and I hope we're ready for it.
Change is a scary thing, and now that I'm a parent I have to worry about it for both myself and my family. It can be helpful when you see the changes coming, so that you can think about them and plan ahead (although even that can be detrimental if you're a worrier like me). But there are also a lot of changes that you can't plan for; things that are unseen and take you by surprise. It's in those moments that we have to rely on prior experiences, advice and support from friends/family, and our own internal strength to get through them. Or, as we discovered recently, you can wear a pink and purple cape that makes you feel like a superhero.
It was a sunny, summer Sunday. The 3 of us had just finished a movie in the comfort of our air conditioned apartment, and were about to head outside to run a few errands. As usual it took some coaxing to convince Olivia to get ready, so we had to get creative. We informed her that there was a very important letter that needed to get to the mailbox, but we needed a superhero to help us with it. Her eyes grew wide and her face beamed as she made a dash for the miniature bust of William Shakespeare we keep in her room. She tilted the head back, flipped a switch and revealed a secret passage containing a fire pole. In a flash she jumped to it, slid downwards and returned seemingly out of nowhere wearing her purple and pink superhero cape; ready for action. Ok, maybe I watched a few too many reruns of the Adam West 'Batman' show when I was a kid. But you have to admit, that sounds a whole lot cooler than the reality of her grabbing the cape and taking 10 minutes to try and put it on herself. Right?
As we made our way out of the building and down the sidewalk, Olivia stuck one arm out in front of her, began running as fast as she could and repeatedly exclaimed, "I'm Superman!!!" I beamed with pride, both over how adorable she was and that some of my geekiness had rubbed off on her. Our daughter, who at times can be incredibly shy and unwilling to move forward without our help, was seemingly fearless in the face of anything that stood in her path. All because of a simple piece of fabric draped across her shoulders and back.
Upon hitting a long stretch of sidewalk I pulled out my phone to shoot an overly dramatic, slow motion video of our child running in her cape, because I'd be a terrible parent otherwise:
Gaze upon our our brave little 'Superman' as she bounds forward, cape billowing gracefully behind her, determined to let nothing stop her from completing her mission. I wish I would have recorded more, not only because she was looking so badass, but because of what happened next. Notice the dog barking at the end of the video? It lives in the house with the wooden fence that Olivia is about to run past, but we had no idea it was outside at the time. That's the little terrier that scared the bejeezus out of our child and changed her superhero status from 'Superman' to 'The Flash.' Not knowing where it was coming from, or whether the dog was chasing her, Olivia started screaming in terror and ran as fast as her little legs would allow.
I raced forward, calling out for her to stop, my mind filled with fear over what could go wrong. What if she doesn't stop, runs into the busy street ahead and gets hit by a car? What if she trips, falls and hurts herself badly? What if that dog somehow did get out and really IS chasing her behind me? I pushed all of that aside and finally caught up with our shrieking superhero. I picked her up and gave her a huge, comforting hug to let her know I was there and that she was safe. After a minute or two of unintelligible sobbing, she finally calmed down enough to explain that the dog had scared her. I held her close, pointed out that the dog had not followed her (thankfully) and that it was just as scared of her too, since it didn't know she was coming either. I let her know that it's ok to be scared, that both mommy and daddy are here to help protect her, and that everything was going to be alright.
After setting her back down, I asked if Olivia still wanted to finish her mission. Without missing a beat she stuck her arm back out, exclaimed, "C'mon Dad!" and took off for the mailbox like nothing ever happened. I guess there's something to be said about the resiliency of kids. I need to remember that even though things might get tough with all of this upcoming change, both my daughter and I have the strength to adapt and move on.
I can continue to worry about all the 'What-Ifs' that may be ahead: What if she doesn't like her new school? What if she's not potty trained enough and they won't let her attend? What if we get her a really lame wizarding pet and all of the other kids with owls and cats make fun of her and it? Instead of worrying, I should focus my energy on how our child is growing into an amazing little girl and keep in mind all of the great things she's accomplished so far. If for some reason things get tough, both her mom and I have her back, no matter what happens. And if she ever needs a little extra help to get her through a tough school day, I'll make sure she puts the cape on underneath her clothes to help her get through it. Hey, if it works in the comic books, it can't hurt in the real world.