Sunday, August 24, 2008

Baby's Last Night

The house is quiet.

L’s backpack sits fully packed, with her lunchbox next to it. Its opening gapes, awaiting the freshly cut apples and cheese sitting neatly in the fridge until morning.

Tomorrow my baby goes to school.

This beautiful girl, my baby, has never done anything as an individual.
Everything she has ever done has been at my suggestion.
Anywhere she has ever gone, she has gone with me.
Anyone who has known L has known her as an extension of me.

Tomorrow my baby goes to school.

And tonight is the end.

Tomorrow she becomes her own little person.
She’ll learn things that I don’t know.
She’ll say things I’ve never said.
She’ll know people I’ve never met.
She’ll go places I’ve never gone.
She begins her own life tomorrow.

My little girl has grown so much over the past 3 years. Its amazing to think about it. From the tiny baby, who doubled in size in just a few short months. The infant who always smiled straight at the camera, and charmed everyone she met. She grew into a wary baby, a 1-year-old who was cautious on the playground and wouldn’t stray far from her family. Nana and Papa lived down the street, and they were in her inner circle – but no one else could come close to L. She kept herself well guarded, especially after the arrival of her sister. At only 15 months old, she had to stop being a baby and grow into a big sister. She managed the transition gracefully, although she still does a lot of kicking and stealing from her sister. Maybe she always will.

Just after her 2nd birthday, we moved her to China. And we learned that L handles change quite well, but needs social stability. She struggled with her celebrity status, a beautiful child with blonde hair and big blue eyes in a land of straight, black hair and thin, dark eyes. She moved to a culture where strangers touch babies, grabbing children’s hands and trying to walk with them. She withdrew so far into herself that we worried about her daily. She wouldn’t talk to anyone outside of our family. She stayed away from crowds and strangers.

She learned an important phrase in Chinese – bu you, or don’t! She learned that people leave her alone when she yells this at them, and that gave her confidence.

As we eased into our new home, we made a stable group of friends. L played with Ruby, Ella and Stella on a regular basis. They came to our home, they met us at the playground, and they joined us for music class. She got to know their moms, and soon she would walk down the street holding their hands and telling them stories. She grew out of her shell. And just last week, I saw her playing with a child she had never met before. She had introduced herself, knew his name, and the two of them ran a restaurant together. She had built her confidence enough to make a new friend on her own.

This builds my confidence as well, that she will be ready for school tomorrow. In a class of only 18 students, L will be the youngest, and the oldest will be nearly 6 years old. Four teachers lead her class, with other adults in the classroom to teach music, cooking or Mandarin. I can’t imagine a more perfect place for L than her new school. And I see that she has grown independent and confident enough for school. L is growing into her own little person. I am so proud of her. And so sad to say good-bye to my baby.

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