During Shot@Life’s Blogust 2014—a month-long blog relay—some of North America’s most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life Champions will come together and share stories about Happy and Healthy Firsts. Every time you comment on this post and other Blogust contributions, or share them via social media on this website, Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation pages, Walgreens will donate one vaccine (up to 60,000).
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Yesterday was the first day of kindergarten for my oldest, Darah. Embarking on the 13-year ride of going to school for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 9 months a year is a pretty big first. And it’s one I’ve been thinking about (and yeah, some days totally daydreaming about) for a really long time.
When I was pregnant with Darah, I imagined her first day of kindergarten being pretty much the same as mine, though perhaps in a classroom that wasn’t quite so 1985 in its aesthetic. Little Darah, in my mind, was just a mini-me, and knowing how to take care of me was something I had some advanced training in by the time I was 29. Besides, I’d read at least 6 different books on birth and the first few years of life, so I was totally in the know about how to do this whole parenting thing.
Understanding the earth-shattering, bring-you-to-your-knees love of a mother? That was all a bit new to me. I do remember getting hints of it, though, before little Darah was born. It would come in waves and it would scare me to death, to be perfectly honest. It was a love and a fear and a joy and a sorrow all squished together in a space much too small to possibly contain it. And in those moments of utter shock and awe, all I could do was rock the two of us back and forth and sing us a song or two to help us get through it.
And then, of course, my child was born and my heart was unexpectedly shattered when I had to return to work after my maternity leave. I spent every single lunch hour during my first year back at work with her at her daycare (it was just a 6 minute walk away…I was very lucky in that regard). Those lunch dates we had were sacred to me, and we would cuddle and coo and love on each other and sing happy songs. I used to think of those sessions together as my gift to her to help her get through the afternoon. But who am I kidding? They were for me. I needed a dose of Darah more than I needed air to breathe.
I left the full-time work force after that year so that I wouldn’t have to be away from my child so much, but you may be surprised to hear that Darah has been in a half-day school program since she was just over two. Darah was unbelievably amazing at Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star under my tutelage, but I did realize that my fierce love for my child did not necessarily make me her very best educator. Since she has been in a formal school environment for quite a while, now, kindergarten might seem a bit anti-climactic. And truth be told, I think from Darah’s perspective, it will be. She knows her teacher, she knows her classmates, she knows the songs for circle time, and she knows the school rules. She’s more than ready for this.
I always thought I would jump for joy the day kindergarten started. I’m a mama who needs her own personal time, and who works from home, so practically speaking, I need uninterrupted time to get some stuff done. Now I’m free to do those things. And that’s really great! And yet here I find myself, getting rocked to my core once again, blindsided by my heartache at watching my baby joyfully bound away from the car and practically leap into her first day of kindergarten, not even so much as glancing back at her mama.
I did a rather surprising thing on the drive back yesterday. I sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star all the way home, all by myself. Did I go off the deep end? It’s possible. But looking back on it, I have a different theory. You see, Darah and I have always spent our time together in the car singing. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star was one of the first songs she learned, and it has always been a favorite. I’ve used it to keep her awake when I need her not to nap in the car. I’ve used it to keep her entertained when she’s bored. And I’ve used it to connect with her when she’s feeling sad. Music does those things for people; it’s a common language in that way. Singing is a natural human response in times of fear and sadness as well as in times of joy. And let me tell you, I was feeling ALL the feelings on that drive home.
All of our singing together, from the very beginning, was as much for me as it was for her as it all turns out. All of the thousands of lessons on independence were for both of us, as well. And now I think back to my own first day of kindergarten and I’m able to paint my mother into the picture, over to the side, SO proud of her little girl for being so grown up. She was also probably crying a bit because in order for her little girl to do her part and stretch her wings, mama had to do her part and let go of them.
Give a Shot So Another Parent Can Experience Letting Go
This is just a painful reality of parenting: letting go. But we have to keep in mind that those painful moments of letting go are also opportunities to give thanks for the ability to get to see our children reach incredible milestones. Every 20 seconds a child in this world dies of a preventable disease before reaching their next big milestone. Polio, Measles, Rotavirus and Pneumococcal Disease are all treatable with vaccines. There is shockingly little that we can control for our kids, as it turns out. But one thing we can do is vaccinate them. Here in the United States, through the help of insurance (be it private or public), this is a rather easy thing to provide. But think for just a moment of all the parents out there who cannot access these life saving vaccines for their kids. Think of the anguish of not being able to provide one of the few measures of protection that actually exist.
That’s why the #Blogust team is pouring our hearts onto your screens this month. Because we can help. YOU can help. We are over halfway to our goal of providing 60,000 vaccinations for children all over the world who otherwise wouldn’t have them. You can forever change a child’s life RIGHT THIS SECOND by leaving a comment below. And then you can change the life of one more child by tweeting about this post. And then you can change a third child’s life by sharing this on Facebook. Got another minute or two? Then go for kids 4, 5, and 6 by posting on Pinterest, StumbleUpon, and Google+. Then multiply your work beyond your own reach by calling on your friends to do the same.
The music is playing, right here, right now, and our social media shares are the life-changing lyrics. How can we keep from singing?