The First Day

We stood looking through the window for quite a while. Without any words between us, we watched her move through her new environment. Her steps were still and quiet. Her eyes seemed to be devouring all that was around her. I shifted my weight, very aware of the burden my equilibrium felt from holding only one child. With both of my daughters in my arms I was balanced. Now one was with me and one was on the other side of that window and my spine and my heart knew it. My feet felt rooted, unwilling to move from that spot, though I knew that I should. It was time to go, to move on, but I just wanted to stay. I wanted to see that she was going to be okay. I wanted to see if I was, too.

Then Lemon said “Daddy, she’s talking to that little girl” and I saw my smile in the reflection of the glass. I took one last look and then carried one daughter out the front door, leaving the other behind. Bug had started school.

It wasn’t that long ago that all of this started. We had a baby and promises and sacrifices were made and I stayed home to care for our new child. We blinked and we had another child. The painting of my life has since had infinite contrasts of light and dark, been colored with love and applesauce and had two constants at my side. They are my shadows. Not many memories of the last few years don’t include those two brilliant faces. They are my life these days. They are my buddies.

Their lives have been painted with my image, too. Always in the background, but always there. The walk through their short lives had to now come complete with a dad-shaped safety net. They could only fall as far as me. But now Bug has begun to walk alone, at least for a few hours a day. Experience will be only hers, now. The beginning of so much that is to come.

The wheels on the car with a less populated back seat rolled out of the parking lot and my thoughts were of all that lies ahead. Laughter and heartache and late nights and quiet moments and books and kisses and tears and sunsets and weekends and friends and epiphany and stresses and joy. Bug is still a baby, still our baby, but I think of all that life holds for all of us as her journey begins and I see the woman in her. Sometimes there are no words that can adequately describe this parenthood thing.

Beginnings follow endings follow beginnings. The cycle flows on and blurs the lines of distinction until all you are left with is life. Bug started school when just yesterday she was sleeping on my chest. Tomorrow she will be grown, maybe watching her own child in a red dress, new backpack and ladybug lunch bag walk into her first classroom. I can only hope she will be as proud of hers as I am of mine.

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About Mitchell Brown

I am a stay at home dad with my two daughters who are a lot stronger than they look. When I'm not cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, teaching, playing or protecting my eyes and groin, I am writing about this whole experience in all of its ridiculousness.
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22 Responses to The First Day

  1. Carol Brown says:

    Oh my, I have a lump in my throat just remembering the feelings you expressed, even though it was many, many years ago I sent you and your sister through the door to start your own separate lives. It is a thrilling, frightening, bittersweet, significant step for any parent. You expressed all this beautifully.

  2. I don’t even have children…but think of how quickly my nieces and nephews are growing makes me wipe the tears from my eyes.

  3. Jared Karol says:

    Mitch, this was great. Our kids are starting preschool on Tuesday. It will be the first time that we have sent them on their own somewhere. Like you, I say that I’m worried for them, but I’m more likely worried for me. Unlike you, though, I’m not sure I’ll be able to express these feelings the way you have done in this post. Thanks for doing it for me. . .

    • Thanks, Jared. I will remember that feeling of leaving Bug at school for the first time forever. I’m not buying that bit about expressing the feeling though, buddy. I would love to read your take on it.

  4. Fabulous! As always, your writing style moves me. It’s so interesting to watch (read) as you and Jared experience all these moments with your young kids, that are unfortunately slowly fading out of my memory as my kids get older. I still though, vividly remember crying on the day my daughter, the older one, went to school for the first time. She had been in day care, but there we were putting her on a school bus. Although those early memories do fade, reading posts like this remind me how special those days were (and still are!).

    • Thank you, Steve – that is very nice of you to say. Yeah, i tried to keep it together driving away as I didn’t want my younger daughter still in the car think anything was wrong – and it wasn’t – but the tears rolled hard. I’ll never forget that. I’m welling up just thinking about it. Thanks for taking the time and following along in our journey, sir.

  5. This was very touching and very full of the love you have for your daughters.
    I liked this: “Beginnings follow endings follow beginnings. The cycle flows on and blurs the lines of distinction until all you are left with is life.” This is so true and it just keeps on going even during these hard moments – which you have brought to life so well here.

  6. Joni says:

    May I tell you, I cry almost every time I read your blog and all the love that you write! I will miss you and your family very, very much. Much love to those beautiful little girls!

  7. Colby says:

    Gulp! You brought me right back to the not-so-long ago day that I left my first baby alone in her classroom for the first time. It’s so hard to turn and walk away, isn’t it. It’s as if we are physically feeling a few of the strings between us and our children being cut away on that day. Powerful post, Mitchell. The fact that you can bring me back to a moment in my own life so easily or to place me in your life with just a few words is amazing!

  8. J i m says:

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful writing. I love it. With Caleb starting kindergarten last week, I can relate so very well to this post. Watching him walk away with his little blond head stick out above his absurdly over sized Star Wars backpack was rough … and exciting … and frightening … and glorious.

    I don’t see how anyone is prepared for this parenting roller coaster. Always glad to know you’re on the other coast going through a similar ride.

    • I really don’t think there is any way to be prepared for any of these moments as they come racing towards us. I’m starting to almost look forward to that feeling of being totally surprised by the emotions that are attached to each of these new stages and experiences. Almost – after all the teenage years aren’t all that far off.

      Thank you once again, Jim, for sharing your time with me. You are and always will be a very special person in my life, despite distance and time, and to know that we are traveling along together brings a big smile to my face.

  9. Jamie says:

    Okay so this is the first time I’ve read your blog…mostly because I just learned about it…and I cannot stop crying. Seriously I am glad I’m home alone because otherwise two children would start crying seeing me in tears and one husband would have that “I’m trying to get you…but I just don’t get weeping over a computer” look on his face. I can relate to that only too well. While I really do have a glass-half-full disposition, every experience I have had with my children has had a whisper of “this moment will never happen again…whoosh…it’s gone forever” feeling in the shadows. This post is…exactly my fear. Didn’t you just scream in your head “DON’T GOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”? Oh my gosh I’m crying all over again!!! So wonderfully written. I wonder if I’ll have the courage to ever again read anything you’ve written. Sheesh.

    • Well, I am honored that you would share your time with me and very touched that you connected with this post the way you did. I honestly am so torn between the dad that wants this to last forever, the dad that is screaming “don’t gooooooooooo!” and the dad that can’t wait to see these little beings grow and learn and find their own path. Kind of a double edged sword as I am pretty screwed either way (or blessed both ways, depending on how you look at it 🙂 ). I can say I did cry quite a bit on that first day and have again since. What a wonderful, crazy journey this is, no?

      I’m sorry that my response has been so delayed – I have been a bit absent. Now it is time to get back to work getting your husband to look at you funny. I hope to hear from you again, Jamie. Thanks so much.

  10. lisens says:

    Beautifully written, Mitchell. As the mother of a son who will soon be off to college (well, soon is next year, but I know how time works, it moves faster than an single remembered moment) I still remember that first moment on that first day of school so very long ago.

  11. Shawna says:

    I LOVE this: “Beginnings follow endings follow beginnings. The cycle flows on and blurs the lines of distinction until all you are left with is life.”

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