My younger son started preschool last week.
In the early spring months, we searched for a program we liked that fit our needs and came across a fantastic place that reminded me of my beloved CCES in Greenville, SC that had been the foundation for my love of school.
We researched the caregivers, we spoke to many parents who had children enrolled in the program. My husband and I vetted every aspect of this operation, from the food served to the music they listened to. "Yes, but how many times are you willing to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar in a row?" Eventually, we decided to move forward, all our criteria satisfied and all our questions lovingly answered.
It's important, just for the context of the story, to tell you that my very first memory that I can identify is gazing at the round, brushed nickle doorknob that was attached to the half-door that led to my own first schoolroom. My first memory is that doorknob, and wailing because my mother had left me there. My very first recollection of existence on this earth is the doorknob to the door that separated me from the most important being in existence, my mommy.
On his first day, my husband and I took him together. The little gregarious guy got involved in playground dynamics immediately and didn't notice when we slipped out.
No one cried.
Later that day, I was picking up groceries. As always, always happens to me literally everywhere I go (much to the chagrin of my more introverted friends, colleagues, and family members--sorry, Richee!) a stranger and I began chatting. Somehow in the course of the conversation, I told the woman that I had just dropped off my son for his first day of "school."
"Oh, did you cry?" she asked, expectant, waiting to comfort me.
"Nah," I said.
She recoiled. Physically. With her body. And her face. Like,
And I knew right then that I had done something wrong. I didn't say any more.
She went on to talk about how she cried off and on all day the day her child began daycare. And I listened, as I always do, and I respected her truth and I recognized all the awesome motherliness and womanliness and personliness and humanity about this story and I felt her triumph when she ended by saying her child now loves daycare.
Later, I was in still a similar situation and the same thing happened. When I mentioned that it was my son's first day away, someone looked around the water lines of my eyes and nodded. "Smart. I didn't wear mascara, either, on my kid's first day."
I didn't correct her to say that I hadn't been thinking ahead, I simply didn't wear mascara daily and that even if I had, I hadn't cried that morning.
As I worked and cooked and did whatever else I did that day, I turned this over and over in my head. Why hadn't I cried, even in light of my own first gut-churning memory of longing for my mother? Even though I loved my child more that I love breathing?
It quickly occurred to me that it didn't matter.
My feelings, and my expressions of those feelings, are valid. Every one of them. My tears (or absence thereof) don't make my experiences any more real or visceral. I'm not a monster because I experienced a milestone differently than you. My sons know I love them every nanosecond of every day without regard to my own emotional expression at any given moment.
Do you know what the flip side of that is?
The flip side is that your feelings, and your expressions of those feelings, are valid. Your tears (or absence thereof) don't make your experiences any more real or visceral. You're not a monster because you experienced a milestone differently than me. Your child(ren) knows you love them every nanosecond of every day without regard to your own emotional expression at any given moment.
No matter what you're feeling or how you're feeling it, that's your reality, and no one gets to tell you that you're wrong for it. No one gets to say you're doing parenthood wrong because you do it differently. They may try, but you don't have to let them into your head.
This is perhaps one of the most profound lessons parenthood has taught me.
I'm The Monster Who Didn't Cry, and my sons love me unconditionally anyway.