On the last day of Kindergarten, we received a book about Darla's first year of school. I was afraid to read it. I knew I would cry uncontrollable. I, of course, cried when I finally worked up the courage to look, but then I saw this self-portrait from her first day of school:
If that's not the most perfect picture of mania and anxiety, then I don't know what is. I believe this picture is an accurate representation of how she felt her first day of Kindergarten. The tight, gritted-teeth smile struggles like a dam holding back a wild torrent of tears. Her eyes are rolled heavenward to help her transport herself somewhere, anywhere else. She also drew herself with a blue beard, which makes sense to me. I feel this way every time I walk into a new situation. I became more bonded to Darla when I saw this picture.
I may have an understanding of her mental space when she's encountering a new experience, but that doesn't mean I'm going to put aside my own anxieties to make it a calm, smooth transition. We stumble into these situations; we're an absolute mess of a mother and daughter.
Today was her first day of Girl Scout summer camp. She was nervous. She woke up early and got herself dressed. She did anxious twirls around the house and giggled. She was ready to go well before we needed to leave. She asked me if there were going to be other new kids there.
I was nervous. I spent the night before agonizing over how I was going to work out an on-time drop off and wondered endlessly if they would put sunblock on her throughout the day. I was a regimented mess in the morning as I got the kids out the door. I barely talked in the car because I needed to give the road my undivided attention.
When we arrived at the camp, everything fell apart. Darla almost darted into the street. I yelled at her to get back. She fidgeted. I sighed. She threw her backpack on the floor in the middle of the check-in. I hissed at her to pick it back up. She wanted me to leave immediately. I felt obligated to stay and take pictures like the other parents. She glared at me and told me to leave. I left. No hugs. No high fives.
I left feeling dejected and like I had failed us both miserably. Drop-off was supposed to be exciting and positive. It wasn't. It was anxiety ridden and clumsy and I wonder if the fact that we didn't hug was going to make her day horrible. I began planning a fun dinner for her and her brother to apologize for being a mess. Then I remembered that first day picture she drew of herself. We are both just terrible at negotiating new beginnings. It gets easier, though. By the end of the summer, I'm sure we'll both be like Darla Chrtie: