The moment of maternal closeness came this morning as I braided my middle-schooler's hair in boxer french braids. She chose this hairstyle because it showed some effort made without being “too extra.” I'm proving myself a solid braider for this girl's high expectations, and this morning's offering passed the test again.
The braiding took enough time that we had to rush to make our way outside for the annual first-day-of-school photo and to make it to the bus stop with a few minutes to spare.
She was very clear that her expectation was that she would stand alone at the bus stop, but that I could stand on the sidewalk in front of our house while we waited for the bus.
She looked back my way a few times and we volleyed a few sentences back and forth. The final one came right before the bus arrived.
“I'm a little scared, Mom.”
The first thing out of my mouth was, “There's nothing to be scared of.”
And then I followed up with this, “Actually, of course you're scared. This is a big moment, but you did it beautifully yesterday, and I know you can do it again today.”
What I'm learning eleven years into this parenting gig is that we do a great disservice to our children when, in an attempt to comfort, we brush off the moment's emotion. Why wouldn't she be scared? She's getting on a bus alone, (with EIGHTH graders!) and going to a new building with unfamiliar adults and students. With unknown expectations and requirements.
Of course the brushing off of these feelings is our attempt at making things better, but the truth is, that's not what my middle-schooler needs. She needs to know that she's capable of walking through whatever middle school sends her way. And one of the first ways her confidence grows, is for me to reaffirm my belief in her ability. Even if I get a catch in my throat as I yell the words from two houses away.
Moments later the bus approached. The doors opened, and my girl walked onto the bus, without looking back. The next few steps away from me and into the life she'll create for herself year-by-year. Exactly as she's designed, and proving that she's prepared, to do.