My daughter started preschool on Sept. 5. For many, this is no big deal, for others it’s too big of a deal. For me, it was a reminder of how my life has completely changed.
Sure, my wife posted pictures of our daughter with her new backpack excited to make new friends and learn new things, and sure, people commented about how cute it all was. But to me, it felt like so much more. I’m having to grow up fast, and it’s because my daughter is growing up too fast.
Most local schools are already in session and have been for weeks. The back-to-school shopping was done weeks (or months) ago, and the routines parents have established for years with their kids swing back into action after the short summer hiatus. Eventually my wife and I will be there too, but we’re not anywhere close to that yet. None of this feels routine. None of it feels normal, yet.
I can still vividly remember our wedding day. I remember struggling to sleep in the hospital room the day my daughter was born. And I remember my daughter’s first birthday. I remember all of these things as if they were last week. But as my daughter starts preschool, these things seem so far away. Her first steps, her first words, all a memory in her ever-growing progress. A few days ago she corrected me in an assessment I made of a television show, stating facts she remembered from the show the day before as evidence to back up her claim. I sat dumbfounded. She’s not supposed to be doing that yet.
What happened to the little girl who reached for Daddy when he came home from work? The one who cried when I set her down, and giggled when I made animal sounds? Now she’s brushing her own teeth — even flossing on her own — and getting herself dressed and ready without needing our help. And last Wednesday, she left our home for the start of a new adventure without us. I know this is how it’s supposed to go, but I don’t think I was ready. Soon she’ll be wanting to hang out at friends’ houses, avoiding public affection with mom and dad, and gasp, liking boys. No, no, no. Not ready for any of that.
On Sept. 1 I attended a friend’s wedding. He’s the same age as me; we grew up together from elementary school on. I tried to remember all the dumb things we did as kids, but as his bride was brought down the aisle by her father, and her father gave her away to my friend, I felt a panic attack coming on. I know it’s a long ways away, but one day I’ll have to do the same thing, and I’m not ready to let my little girl go. I’m sure that the bride’s father wasn’t, either. Maybe those things never change.
I returned home to my daughter and embraced her, knowing I still have some time before she’s taken away. I’m trying to take advantage of every day I have with her knowing that life is short and she’s growing fast. This preschool thing was just another reminder of that, and while I’m excited for every new opportunity she gets, I can’t help but feel sad at the same time. Our daughter is growing up, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Patrick Ibarra is the managing editor of the Mountain Democrat.