Yesterday was my baby girl’s first day of kindergarten. We have had a very busy month with travel, company, horse shows and various social activities, so there hadn’t been a lot of discussion about her starting school prior to this week. We were prepared, though, and had gone shopping for school supplies and shoes, and picked up her freshly pressed uniforms from the embroidery place.
On Tuesday morning we took baby brother Batman to his pre-school for a whole day so that Annabelle and I could spent a last day together before the commencement of her formal education. I had planned a nice long trail ride, with a little lunch along the way (cold fried chicken, maybe) and lots of time to talk about the life transition that I knew was coming.
Annabelle had other things in mind. As we pulled into the driveway after dropping off Zach, I said “Let’s run in the house and change our clothes before we hook up the horse trailer.” My daughter sighed. “Actually, mom, I decided I would rather just ride here today.”
I was incredulous. Trail riding has always been our thing. I love everything about having my little daughter as a captive audience to just walk and talk and look at the wildlife and birds. “Really?” I said. “Why?” “Well,” she answered, “I just think that I need to work on Grumpy a little bit here.”
“Well, it’s your day,” I replied, “but I was really looking forward to going for a nice long ride.” She affixed me with her beautiful blue eyes and smiled gently. “Well, if that’s what you really want to do then I will, but I’d rather stay home.” “No, that’s OK,” I said, trying to hide my disappointment. “It’s your day. We can stay.”
Annabelle bounded out of the pickup and ran in to change her clothes. She raced out and caught her horse, and I soon saw what she needed to “work on.”
She was feeling the need for speed.
Poor Grumpy. My daughter set up three “barrels” (which were actually upside grain buckets) in the grassy area next to the house, and proceeded to lope Grumpy around and around and around them.
She had a blast. I had so much fun watching her that I couldn’t even feel sorry for myself as I spent the morning scrubbing water troughs and moving hay. She was in her element.
I don’t think Grumpy minded either. He looks pretty good for an old man of 22, dontcha think?
When she was done running him around she wanted to give him a bubble bath.
She scrubbed and scrubbed until he shone. After he dried we put his new tail braid in and went in the house for lunch.
Annabelle was happy. She had done just what she wanted to do on her last free day before school.
As if the day couldn’t get any better, Auntie Kris called and invited us to come to work cows that evening. We had been invited to go out to the feedlot and mess around with the bovines before, but had never been able to fit it into our schedule. Since we were free for the rest of the afternoon, it seemed like Kismet.
Annabelle was wildly excited. She has wanted to work cows forever, and now she finally had her chance. As part of her special-day-before-school-starts-celebration, no less.
It couldn’t have been more fitting.
She got to ride Auntie Kris’s horse Chic for the big event, and all the big boys (and girls) just stood back and watched while she worked her very own fresh cow. It was awesome. She started out just following the cow back and forth across the fence.
She didn’t think Chic was going fast enough so she was kissing and clucking to him all the way.
Once she got the hang of it Chic started going a little faster.
It was pretty amazing to watch this horse, an NRCHA World Champion Reined Cow Horse, take care of my little girl. He is a horse that has won over $50,000 aggressively turning cows at full speed on the fence with a professional rider on his back, but that afternoon he went just as fast as Annabelle could handle, and no faster.
It was thrilling beyond belief for her. You could see her smile from the far side of the arena.
She worked the scruffy white steer until he would hardly move any more.
When she was done, we shared a birthday cupcake with Auntie Kris (Happy Birthday again, Kris!) and then headed home for a bath and a good night’s sleep.
All the way home she talked about her cow work. I knew it was the perfect confidence builder and prelude to the next big “first” for her.
Morning came awfully early after all the previous day’s excitement, and it took my girl a few minutes to wake up. She sat in the chair and held Zoe the “Skinny Pig” for a few minutes to get her head clear.
She seemed supernaturally calm about going to school.
Like it wasn’t even happening.
We finally got ready to go and DH took a picture of us before we headed out the door. Doesn’t she look cute in her uniform?
When we got to school she put on her cardigan and backpack like she had done it a hundred times before. She still seemed very calm.
Once we got inside we saw some new friends, Pandora and Angelina, who we had become acquainted with at “Meet the Teacher” day. Angelina took another picture of me and Annabelle by the welcome sign. Annabelle was getting a tiny bit clingy at this point.
Notice the two-hand grip on my arm?
We went into the classroom and I could tell that reality was starting to sink in a bit.
Her smile was a bit forced when she posed by the backpack cubbies.
And she required lots of hugs and kisses before she went with the other kids to sit in a circle around her teacher, Mrs. Martinez. But she went and sat.
If you look closely at her face, though, you can probably tell what is about to happen.
Yep. That’s right.
A complete and total meltdown, complete with loud hiccupping sobs. The other parents looked at me in sympathy. People in the hallway stopped and stared. I was thinking I should have left when I had the chance.
Mrs. Martinez was very kind. She took Annabelle’s hand and said “What’s wrong honey?”
My tough little cowgirl, who will climb on a 1,000 pound horse and run him around an arena after a cow without blinking, said in a quavering voice “I miss my mommy.”
Then I started crying. Silently, though. I wasn’t hiccupping. I’m not a baby you know.
Mrs. Martinez said “Just you wait, the day will go by so fast you won’t even notice, and she will be here to pick you up.”
Annabelle looked over toward me. She sobbed “Well, can she at least come and give me a hug?”
Then I cried a little louder.
I gave her a big hug. Mrs. Martinez gently peeled her off of me and restrained her while I left. I cried all the way home.
The day took forever, and when it was finally 3:00 I couldn’t wait to get to school. I spotted Annabelle right off, waiting with her friend Brendon outside.
I loaded her up in the truck and she told me she had a great day. “I got control of myself right after you left mom,” she said matter-of-factly. She told me about her hot lunch in great detail (It was really really good! White rice with that chicken we tried the other day at Costco!”), which was an Orange Chicken sauce like they serve at PF Changs. She has good taste.
All was well.
Until this morning.
This time, Kari Loomis, who is our friend and pediatrician, and Brendon’s mom, peeled Annabelle off of me in the hallway, and took her sobbing into her class.
I don’t know if I am big enough for kindergarten.