I circle the school parking lot a couple of times before resigning and finding a spot in the grass farthest from the entrance. I grab the folder containing documents that I need, close the door and help Laddu from the car. She is bundled up, her hood covering most of her face. Her tiny hands are thrust into her jacket pocket. We walk, the wind trying to push us off balance. Inside the warmth of the school, I let out the breath I have been holding.
There is a lady ahead of us so we sit and wait our turn. Laddu is quiet, unusually so. Her legs are swinging in time to some silent beat in her head. I see a teacher I know and we exchange pleasantries. Our turn comes up and we walk up to the front desk. The lady behind the desk is pleasant and efficient. She makes copies of the birth certificate and other documents proving residency extends two more pages for me to fill and disappears to file the papers.
I bend over checking boxes and answering questions about what Laddu is like. Does she have separation anxiety? What are her strengths? Can she tie her shoelaces? It hits me with a force that my little one is truly going to school. The big school as she calls it. Come fall, she will take the bus with her sisters and disappear into this cavernous building with pods and restrooms that are not in class. She will have her desk and learn to eat without encouragement from matronly teachers. She will learn to clear up, pack her bags and get on the bus with the rest of her peers.
A part of me is ever so ready, ready to see her take flight and soar. There is a part of me that wants to hold back selfishly.
The lady is back for the sheets I hold in my hand. I turn them over and realize we are done. I want to linger, ask her if my daughter will be okay there. I want to know who her teacher will be. I want to know the other kids who are registering. Instead, I wish her a good day and walk back to the car with Laddu.
Laddu gets in the car and melts down for seemingly inane reasons. I promise her TV time once we reach home and she quiets. I wonder if she senses the anxiety radiating off me. I wonder if she realizes the paper I held out a few minutes ago set into motion the trajectory for the rest of her growing up years. As if the import of the moment weighs her down, she stills and leans back.
We drive in silence, the wind howling around us.
My baby is a big girl, going to a big girl school and I am not quite sure how I feel about it.