Parenting is full of all kinds of big first moments; first steps, first smile, first time your kid says daddy. And then there are the little firsts that don’t seem as big, yet somehow seem to have just as much significance. I had one of those little first moments with The Girl yesterday morning.
Our usual morning routine when I drop her of at playschool is like this. After giving her a goodbye hug and kiss, I leave and walk down the front steps of the preschool. At the bottom I stop and turn around. The pre-school has a big bay window in the front of it overlooking the street and every morning there is my girl, standing in the window, smiling and waving goodbye to me.
I begin to walk down the street until I hear a tap at the window behind me. I turn around and there she is, still smiling and waving. I wave back. I go a few more steps down the street, stop and turn around. She is still standing in the window, watching me walk away. She smiles and waves. I smile and wave back. I go a few more steps, stop, turn and wave. She is still there and returns the wave. We repeat our turn and wave 3 or 4 times as I walk down the street. Sometimes I turn around and she is making a silly face in the window. Sometimes, I do the same and we share a little giggle. It’s a private moment in a public place – a moment of connection and transition for both my daughter and myself and it continues until I am around the corner and out of sight of the daycare window.
We have done our window dance every daycare & preschool morning for the past 2 1/2 years. Until yesterday.
Yesterday, after I walked down the steps of the preschool, I turned around to wave. She wasn’t at the window. I paused, waiting for her happy little face to appear in the window. After a moment, still no girl in the window. I waited a bit longer. Still no girl. Slowly it dawned on me that maybe she wasn’t coming to the window.
I began to walk slowly away from the preschool, stopping and turning every few steps and hoping I would see her face in the window waving at me. But each time was the same – no smiling girl waving goodbye to her dad. After 3 turns to look back, I finally did catch a glimpse of her through the big preschool bay window. She was laughing and running around with her friends, oblivious that her dad was standing on the street looking in, wishing that she would come to the window to wave goodbye.
She wasn’t coming.
I continued walking down the street, occasionally glancing back just in case she had taken up her usual spot and was waving and smiling at me walking away. But she never appeared, caught up in her own little world of friends and play inside the preschool. And I realized that each time I turned around and she wasn’t there, I felt a little bit sadder.
It seems like such a silly little thing to remember – the first time my girl didn’t come to the window to wave goodbye to me in our morning ritual. But for some reason, this little first moment has stuck with me. All day yesterday it kept replaying over and over in my head, implanting itself into some remote memory brain cells. I don’t know why. But it is a first moment that obviously has hit me at some level to make me want to wake up at 5 am and document it here for some future me to look back on and remember.
Maybe I read too much into this little moment. That somehow this is not some kind of sign that she is growing more independent and doesn’t require the comfort of her dad waving goodbye to her to signal that everything is okay and right in the world. More likely she probably just got caught up in her own little world.
But I am going to use this moment as a good reminder to stop and pay attention to those little everyday things and realize that when it comes to parenting, those little things are often just as important as those big milestones. It’s a realization that in the midst of the chaos that is our lives right now, I am experiencing just as many significant firsts as my kids. They may not be as developmentally big as taking a first step or uttering a first word, but they are big and significant in their own little way, even if the reasons why are not always obvious. And maybe they don’t have to be.