When E was four she would cry to me every night in her bed, I wish I wasn't alive. Does that break your heart? This was the whole of the lament, uttered night after night: I wish I wasn't alive. I wish I was a plant instead. Plants don't have feelings.
I could never type that out here before. It pains me too much. I can hear her voice, small in my arms, scarred into our past, illuminated by night light and the demons of her day. I'll hear those words forever, as clear as when the lovely husband first said "I love you" or the ultrasound tech said of her, my first baby, "it's a girl," or her first word, reaching out from her crib: up!
I wish I wasn't alive.
I couldn't say "don't say that, honey" because her feelings were already too strong for her to handle and that response, as if those weren't feelings she should have, would have crushed her down further. I couldn't say "I'm glad you're alive," because she didn't want her existence to be meaningful; that gave her guilt. I couldn't say anything. So night after night I stroked her hair and told her I loved her and I hoped tomorrow would be better.
We worked so hard on those tomorrows. For the public written record those details don't matter but we have worked. We had help and books and we role-played and brainstormed and spoke our feelings through puppets and crayons. We faced her demons and we faced them again and we'll do it some more.
Remember how hard the beginning of kindergarten was? I don't want to link to it; I don't have the heart-conviction to read those pained posts from last year at this time. But if you were here, you know we struggled. She struggled. And eventually it became wonderful but it took weeks, more than a month, just to be not terrifying.
Transitions are scary. For all of us that's true, I think, but some of us cope nimbly and some of us paralyze in insecurity. The transition to first grade shouldn't have been quite as difficult as the one to kindergarten, but we weren't sure just how difficult it would be on our girl.
On the plus side, she already knew the building and the school culture. She just had to adjust to new teachers and a new set of classmates. But on the dark side, the wonderful guidance counselor who helped her so much last year left the school after having her first child; by some terrible lottery amongst the four classrooms for the grade not a single one of E's kindergarten classmates is in her first grade class; and after last year's nanny fiascos we've decided to enroll her in the school's aftercare program. So she still had quite a lot of "new" to face today.
I will admit to you, she cried most of yesterday afternoon in anticipation of today.
But then she got up this morning without tears, said goodbye at the school door without breaking down, made it through her day filled with strangers and her first afternoon in aftercare, and was all smiles at pickup.
All those nights I spent lying with her hoping for a better tomorrow? This was exactly it.