Vedu, my firstborn, my little baby, started school yesterday. At 4 years and 3 months, it is definitely a good time for her to start. In fact, if the whole pandemic crisis hadn’t happened, she would have started pre-school last year in June at three and a half years. The pandemic gave her almost an entire additional year to be home. More importantly, it gave me almost an entire additional year with her, not worrying about school timing, homework, holidays or anything. Still, when she started school yesterday, virtually though, I could feel my greedy heart become slightly heavier with the thought that things will never be the same again.

It would be an understatement if I say that I have been thinking of this day from the time she was in my womb. I have literally been dreading this day ever since she was around 6 or 7 months inside me. There used to be days during my pregnancy when I would suddenly sit and cry thinking of how this tiny baby inside me would come out soon, grow up and start going to school before we knew it. I used to think of that as a trick the hormones were playing on me, and later as a result of the clinical depression and anxiety I got diagnosed with. But I soon found out that it was very much a real, genuine worry that was there in my mind.

I’m sure that people who are reading this would now be thinking of me as an overprotective mother who wants her child under her wings all her life, be a “helicopter mother” who doesn’t want to lose control over her child and so on. I really don’t know how to explain that that is not what this is about. Don’t get me wrong. I am very happy and proud of my little girl starting school and embarking on the adventure called life. I am excited to see how she will grow, making mistakes and learning from them, turning from a shy and timid little one to a bold and fearless girl who won’t be scared to take on life and stand up to all that life has to offer. I will happily stand by her, letting her take the driver’s seat, and offering help and advice only to the extent that is needed. But with all that joy and pride, I am not ashamed to admit that there is a small part of me that is sad. Maybe people will judge me because parents do not admit this truth very often.

It’s very difficult to put the reason behind this sadness in words. Although if I really do try, it would sound shallow and petty. I’ll take that risk and be honest. My worry is about how we are no longer her “world”. Even though she has had her grandparents she talks to every day, other relatives she connects with once in a while, some neighbours she socializes with etc., Vedu’s real world has been us – Hari and I (and now her baby sister). We have been the only people she trusts, we have been the only people she loves with all her heart, we have been her only real friends, we have been the only ones from whom she learnt everything in life, we have been the only important people in her life – yes, we have been her “world”. Going to school is the first step of her expanding her world, a world that will have others in it, not just us. She will have teachers she will look up to, friends she will confide in, work that she will do on her own, activities that she doesn’t need our help with, dreams that have nothing to do with us, she will have so many hours of every day when she won’t think of us at all… in short, we are no longer her “world”.

I will learn to accept that, I will be happy about that too and look on with pride. But that doesn’t mean I won’t miss the days when she has been our little baby. Our tiny munchkin who took our fingers when she started walking, our sweetheart who could fit in our arms and tagged along with us everywhere with her never-ending chatter and songs, whose dreams always had us in it, whose life was about being our baby. I will never completely get over the loss of those “baby days” and our privileged status of being her “only important people”. I have been thinking of this blog from the time I was carrying her within me. But I still can’t help rambling or crying while typing this, because no matter how much I have tried to prepare myself for this day when she will spread her wings and fly out of the nest, I don’t think I have done a good job of being prepared. Maybe that’s how it is supposed to be.

And while I really feel bad that she couldn’t start school in the normal way, actually going to school, meeting new people, making friends, getting over her fears and enjoying school for what it is, I must say that I am somewhat thankful for the online classes. I know it is lots and lots of extra work for Hari and me compared to what it would have been if we could just send her off to school. But unlike ripping off a bandage which is supposed to be painful, but quick, this will give me some time to get used to her having another world of her own. For a little while at least, I get to be a part of it too. Slowly we will both transition into the new phase, hand in hand. And when it is really time for her to leave my hand, I would have learnt to say bye with a smile and be happy about it. 🙂

Also published on Medium.