The little angel is starting kindergarten next week. I've been taking it harder than I thought I would. I'd often bragged to people that there would be no change for us, since she's been in daycare since 2004. I really thought it would be no big deal.
Today I took her in late to daycare, and for the first time in over a year she clung to my neck. I picked her up, this tall, gangly girl who insisted on wearing her back-to-school suede ankle boots with her denim skirt on a 90-degree day today. She buried her nose in my shoulder and wailed.
"Don't leave me," she cried, hiccuping.
"What's going on?" I asked. "I thought you wanted to go to the end-of-summer party."
"I want to go home with you," she sobbed.
"But honey," smoothing her hair from her flushed forehead. "I have to do my work. There will be nobody to play with you for several hours. It will be boring. Wouldn't you rather stay here and go to the party?"
Then she hit me with the money shot.
"But Mommy, I never have enough time with you. I just want some tiiiiiiimmmmmeeee." And she turned her back and went to get a Kleenex.
I sat there, stabbed through the heart with her words. This is my nightmare, that my daughter will grow up and say her working mommy never gave her enough time. This is the scene I imagined over and over in my head that first day I drove to work soaking my shirt with tears after leaving my three-month-old baby at daycare.
Part of it was her word choice. I don't know if she's heard me saying I just want time with her or if she actually came up with those two sentences on her own, but she couldn't have picked a more painful sentiment for me. So I promised her I would run home and do my work as fast as I could and come back as soon as the cable guy left.
Then one of her favorite teachers invited her to come and play in her room, and the waterworks abruptly stopped. My daughter smiled and followed her teacher.
"Are you sure you're okay?" I asked. "I promise I'll be back early."
I walked to the office and told the daycare director my daughter would be riding the school bus home at least on Fridays. We made arrangements for her to have phonics on the same days twice a week and went through the logistics of her riding the daycare bus to school. The director, who has a daughter the exact same age as mine, gave me an understanding look. "This is hard, isn't it?"
I felt the tears balancing on my eyelashes. "Yes," I said. "This is the part I was afraid of."