I can't say that I love either of my children more, but I understand now what a mother means when she says that she loves her children differently. As my firstborn child, my oldest, she began her life teaching me how to be a mother, how to be a better person, how to love someone completely even when it requires sacrifice. I should have named her "Faith", because she is what God finally used to restore my faith, just as I should have named her sister "Joy" because that is why he sent my second child to me in a time of great emotional need. Teenybop has since the day of her birth been teaching me to love and mother more fully and completely.
Teenybop is one of my favorite people in the world. I have watched her grow and been so grateful for her presence for six and a half years, and during the short years of her life, I have been both wildly amused and completely shocked by the way she sometimes sees the world. I have made so many memories, just learning to be a mommy, learning to be her mommy.
My relationship with my older daughter has been a tumultuous one. I have seen some of the most proud moments of my life, some of the highest and lowest emotional moments of my entire life are centered around her presence in my life. I have learned so much about who I am, who I've been, and who I someday want to be ... simply from being around her.
And now she enters a new phase of her life. In America, entering first grade is often just another school day. The newness has worn off after the previous years with kindergarten and preschool. But in countries all over the world and indeed sometimes in this country, parents celebrate and mourn with the first day of first grade. Preschool is just as it's name implies. Pre school. Before school, right? Prior to school. It's practice, really, and could be seen as something that doesn't really count. Kindergarten isn't really school for some people either. It is like preschool (at least, it was when I went) too, a little more focused "practice".
But first grade is when the "practice" pretense is over. You can no longer deny that your child is not a baby anymore. You can no longer pretend that it's just a little thing. Sure, you can lean on the fact that school is just a part of life in our culture, unavoidable. Destined, perhaps.
But still. I can lean all I want to, and it doesn't change anything. My daughter will now be spending as much time at school as she does at home. And even when she is home, the days of coming home from school lighthearted and ready to play are over. Because in first grade, it matters. There's homework to be done, books to read, papers to write, math problems to solve. She isn't just my little girl anymore ... She is a student. A first grader. And she's growing up, so very very fast.