We stand around and take in the room. Or rather, I stand around and take in the room. The jobs, the traffic light, the pictures of little names painted with dots and stripes, the paper dolls holding hands across the side of the room. I am standing in front of a tiny desk with papers that say "Bea's Family."
Do you think we have to sit in that little chair?
There is a man standing next to me, smiling. He is also flying solo at Family Night, which comforts me. Our babysitter couldn't make it, and we had no one else, so Sam stayed and I went.
Yes. I was waiting for someone else to do it first.
The dad chuckles. Then we spend the next few minutes shuffling uncomfortably, looking around the room at our kid's names. Turns out we are sitting right next to each other, or girls sit right next to each other. The teacher begins the presentation about pre-kindergarten and what they do here.
This year is about socialization.
For Beezus or for me? I think.
Beezus seems to be fine, comes home every day with new stories of her friends. I, on the other hand, have very rarely interacted with other parents in the four years since she came into the world. I stay home with the kids, play with my nieces and nephews, hang out with my crafty sister. But every day, I walk to the school to pick Beatrice up and drop her off. I wait with the other moms. Recently, I have been chitchatting and it feels okay. Some moms are seasoned, others new school moms like me. I ask the seasoned moms advice on school stuff, and commiserate with the other moms who are going through all of this for the first time too. Some days it is easier than other, but I want to fit into the group of parents more than I wanted to fit in during high school. Maybe fitting in isn't the right phrase. I just want not be noticeable as weird or kooky or grieving or anything. I just want it to be about Beezus. I don't want any parent to think, "But her parents seem weird."
After the presentation, I go to a wall of sheets with interview questions. The questions are what do you want to be, what is your favorite toy, what would you do with a million dollars. One kid writes that he wants to be a priest. I live in a place with a lot of Catholics, but it still surprises me. One kid writes that he wants to be an adult. My daughter writes that she wants to be a doctor. Her favorite animal is a giraffe and if she had a million dollars, she would want ice cream. I would recognize the answers if it had no name on the paper. But it does, large across the top:
They call her Bea here. The teacher, all the kids. We call her Bea too,
but mixed in with Beatrice, and Beezus and Bea-triche, and Buzz and
Bumble Bee. And I realize that her name is her own, she can be called
what she chooses, she can become whoever she chooses. The mountain climbing doctor with an all-girl punk rock band called Shark. Man. Attack.
I thought this part of parenting would be so difficult, watching her go out into the world, but I find it so beautiful and comforting that she knows what to do. This week, she is the Line Leader. She pushes her shoulders back, and raises her head, and walks straight away without a wave or a blown kiss. The other kids need her, and she takes it seriously. In the midst of grief and loss and anxiety and fear, we have given her something beautiful and gentle and kind to carry into the world. It is a line of qualities that surprises me, and warms me, and gives me faith in the human spirit.