Soph starts kindergarten tomorrow. It’s just another transition, I keep telling myself, just one day of many days when she keeps growing up, growing independent, growing as I want her to. But I can’t help lamenting how quickly these last five years went. I can’t help wanting to cling to her before she sails out of my orbit for good, in another few years that I know will probably pass in a blink.
I also can’t help worrying for her: will she find good friends? Will her teacher be wise, and comforting, and wonderful? Will the larger school be daunting? And then I try to swallow these worries, wary of passing on my anxiety to her. Tonight she was chewing at her shirt-sleeve, anyway.
But today she was also asking me to tell her Greek myths. On our morning bike-ride, she had been chatting about a one-eyed monster she had made from a pipe-cleaner, and that prompted me to tell her about Odysseus outsmarting the Cyclops. She started asking for more. And more, til she exhausted my memory of the Odyssey. Then, on our after-dinner stroll, a neighbor mentioned Pandora’s box, and that story made her beg for still more. I could only recall 2 of the 7 labors of Hercules — but, still, there is something deeply satisfying about reaching into the mists of my memory and coming up with these classic oral stories that my daughter relishes.
Brushing her teeth before bed, she asked me: “Why didn’t Achilles’s mother just dip him in the River Styx a second time, holding him by his arms the second time, so his ankles would be protected by the magic water?”
I have often wondered that myself. I told her that I think the answer is that all humans need to have a weak point; it’s impossible to fully protect any person, even if you are a goddess, as Achilles’s mother was. Only gods can be perfect. We people are flawed.
And what I thought, but didn’t say: Clever girl. You’re going to have no trouble in kindergarten. She knows how to listen to stories and she knows how to ask the smart questions.
She knows how to talk about her feelings, too. She knows how to care for others, wait her turn, swim across a pool, practice something til she learns it, and count to 237 — which may sound like I’m bragging, but, trust me, listening to a five-year-old count to 237 makes for VERY tedious dinner conversation. Sophie knows how turn plastic forks into art, observe the world around her, spell a half-dozen words, create elaborate fantasy plays, and forgive her own imperfections. She knows what she needs to know to start kindergarten. She has her achilles’ heels, of course, many of them, because I’m not a goddess and I haven’t yet found any River Styx to insulate her from the arrows of life. But southern California may be a sort of River Styx, bathing her in kindness & comfort, giving her confidence to face the arrows that will come.
Somehow, because Sophie asked me about Achilles’s mother, I feel better releasing her to kindergarten.