I watch the bus trundle into our development through the window over my sink. Washing my coffee cup, I notice the clock says 4:00 PM. It’s Friday I think, feeling irrationally happy. Ammu and Pattu hop, skip and jump their way home clutching their newly bound books and shiny certificates proclaiming they are authors in their own right. I seat them at the island and stow away the various items from their school bag.
“Ready for a play date with friends?” I ask. Their faces light up and they finish their milk and snack in record time. I drop them off at our neighbors and roll the window down to wave bye. They are already in a group with their friends and I drive away feeling a little sad. Circling the development I head back home and take Laddu to the yard for a go at the swings. She plays for a while and asks to go back inside.
The changes have been creeping up on me. One day in the past week, I left Laddu with my mom for a whole day while I celebrated with a dear friend as she expects her first born. I returned home to child happy to see me but happier to play by herself. Over the past few years, I have let Ammu and Pattu play in the yard or driveway but only where I can see them. This past week, I let them scooter a few yards past where I could no longer see them. They rode away into the sunset, their hair waving in their wake. I stood glued to the front window until I could see them again. I stood watching as they looked left, right and left again and crossed the road. I watched as Ammu turned back to see if her sister was behind her. I felt emotional watching these little girls own the responsibility for their freedom. I hugged them longer and harder than necessary when they came in.
Today as I sat in the hot sun at their school waiting for their class play to begin, it hit me that they have been in school two years now. As the kids trooped in and did their parts, I watched the pride on their faces as they followed cues and delivered what I thought was a spirited performance. As the kids huffed and puffed to blow the wolf’s house down, I watched fellow parents laugh and collectively will their kids to do well. In that tiny circle of parents and children, I realized what it was to be part of a group where everyone wants the same thing, that their children do well.
Ammu walked past me in her pink tutu and flamingo nose, her eyes brightening at the sight of Laddu. I waved and snapped a picture. Not captured in the picture was the sun beating down on us, the still air, the collective hopes pinned on first graders and the pride on faces everywhere. After the play, as I laid out the bright blue blanket on the grass and sat with Laddu next to me watching the kids play, I realized this was another of those moments. The school was their space and they came into their own amidst other kids like them. I watched Ammu wait in line for her turn at the slide. I watched Pattu run behind two other kids, her face flush with joy. The children buzzed around like bees, forming groups, disbanding and reforming another. I watched for a while and then walked back to the car, taking baby steps alongside Laddu, in letting go, in watching from the sidelines and enjoying the view.