. Last week, another exciting mile marker was crossed—the screening. Every child entering kindergarten in the fall is brought in for a simple 20 minute interview to get a general feel for where they fit in with the other kids.
Easy breezy. This wouldn't phase Alice at all. I mean, this is a girl who considers herself a real live superhero. With her shoulders back, head high, she's got the strut to back it up.
Just the other day she flew down a second-story zipline at a local fair, all the while shouting, "Don't worry, Mama, I'm fine!"
No one was worried about Alice. My friend Cathy texted me after our screening:
How did yours go? Did she skip right in?
Well, not exactly. She definitely didn't skip.
Let me back up.
Two hours before the screening, I was preparing my /half cream in the kitchen when I heard a sleepy Hazel slowly scoot down the stairs.
"Um, Mama? Awice needs you."
This was strange. Alice is always the first up, ready to make specific, shifting breakfast demands and poke holes in the logic of the day's schedule.
I quickly went up to her room. I found her propped up in bed, her face shaped into the pained expression of someone who must deliver some very bad news.
She looked me straight in the eye and earnestly declared: "Mama, I can't feel my legs."
"I can't use them, I can't move them, I mean, definitely my right one. This one. It hurts to move it. I think I can't walk today. You're going to have to carry me."
The day had just started so luckily my patience reserves were at their highest.
"Oh your poor thing! Here, let me carry you to breakfast. This is terrible."
Oh how happy she was to be in my arms. And in that moment I actually didn't mind indulging her. I can remember having these moments in my own childhood. When you just want to give up and surrender to mom.
So I was fine with carrying her from breakfast to the couch. And from the couch to the bathroom. And from the bathroom back to the couch. But the clock was ticking and I wasn't fine with carrying her all the way to the kindergarten screening.
I switched gears: "Alice, if you can't walk, you can't tour the kindergarten."
"What's a tour?"
"Oh you know, they just show you around You take a look here, a peek there, no big deal, we'll just see what it's like."
"Oh. Well how much walking will there be? Like on the tour?"
"That's what a tour is! It's walking! That's practically the definition of tour!"
"That's not what you said before."
"Okay, listen. Here is the deal. Stand up, put your clothes on and start walking."
"I will try. But I don't think I can get my pants on."
So off we went to check out the kindergarten—me and my miniature version of Kevin Spacey from Usual Suspects. I dragged her by the hand into the building and we saw some friendly faces from preschool—and still the limp continued. As I said hello to all the other mothers I tried to configure my face into a gesture that said, "Not a real limp! We got a physical manifestation of a deep-seated anxiety up in here, you feel me?"
In the end Alice and I just stood still as much as possible.
Finally a kind teacher approached and got down on Alice's level. Within seconds, I didn't exist. The teacher asked her something and Alice nodded politely. They walked off together down the hall, holding hands, everything going perfectly—everything except for the lingering limp.
Midway down the hallway, they stopped again. The teacher pointed to some artwork on the wall, and Alice nodded appreciatively, as if she were a cocktail party guest at an art opening.
Inexplicably, tears poured forth from my eyes, followed by a rush of pride. I know that little girl. She is so scared right now, but she is going forward. She is doing what she needs to do, with as much grace as she can muster. And that is what makes her brave.
Twenty minutes later she ran, albeit with a slight limp, into my arms.
"How did it go?"
"Fine. She asked me questions."
"Did you answer them?"
"Of course. I answered all of them."
We walked hand in hand for awhile. After a few minutes she let go and skipped right down the sidewalk on her own.