We sat in the long parent drop-off line, cars idling in the Florida heat. It was only 7:20 in the morning, but the sun was already making its presence known.
“Do you want your sunnies?” I asked my daughter, who was standing up in the back seat.
“No, mommy, I’m good.” She smiled at me through the rearview mirror.
It was nice to see her smiling after the rough morning we had. She did not want to go to school. After weeks of adjusting from VPK to Kindergarten, I thought we were over our morning meltdowns. But just after a three-day reprieve, the tears began again, and she begged to return to her old school. The cause of this frustration was a letter sent home by the school informing me that my daughter was selected to join the newly formed class, allowing for smaller classroom sizes.
“Mommy?” asked two sparkling eyes, still staring at me from the mirror. She liked to pretend she was a spy when she talked to me through the mirror. “Since I’m getting a new teacher, can I just go back to my old school?”
My heart breaks as she turns to face the blue dinosaur playground. Tail lights come on as cars shift from park to drive. I curse to myself, having to think of something fast before we start to move, and a safety patrol is opening her door, leaving her wondering.
“No, baby,” I try to say in the most reassuring way possible. “You’re too old and too smart to go back to VPK.”
She sighs, not taking her eyes off the playground. “What if this teacher thinks I’m too smart and moves me again.”
“That’s not going to happen,” I promise.
My daughter, who can hold a conversation with air, is silent once more. The cars begin to roll forward. I drop the sun visor down. Even my polarized sunglasses are no match for the early morning sun.
“Are you sure you don’t want your glasses?” I ask, holding up her purple, sparkly sunglasses.
She shakes her head and sits down in her brother’s spot, slipping on her oversized backpack straps. “I was quiet yesterday, so I earned a house for my desk pet.” She proudly before sighing. “I was really, really good, do you think I can stay with my teacher now? I promise I’ll listen better and not interrupt her while talking.”
I gripped the steering wheel. I’m beyond fucking pissed, not at her but by how purely this whole situation was handled. A letter on Wednesday announcing she will be moved that upcoming Monday. There wasn’t a phone call from the school, the same school that has left millions of other non-important calls that could have been handled with a shitty copied letter. Nope, this was handled with a cold, black-and-white letter uprooting my kid just as she was finally at peace with her new lot in life.
We’ve reached the stop sign now. The brake lights of the six cars ahead of me torment me. Their tiny passengers disembarking, ready to start their day. I can only pray that they feel better than my daughter does.
“Angel baby,” I try to laugh off her worry, “You aren’t being moved because you were bad or talked too much. Just a lot of people were moved because the classes were too big. I’m sure your new teacher will be just as fun as your old one.”
We roll forward. She doesn’t say anything, just simply stares out the window as we creep closer to the little boy donning a bright green crisscross safety patrol belt. He opens the door and wishes us good morning. For the first time in these four short weeks of kindergarten, my daughter freezes instead of rushing out of the car.
I turn to the back seat and give her tiny hand a squeeze. “I love you, baby.”
For the first time in months, she doesn’t correct me, telling me she’s a big girl now. “I love you too, mommy.” And with that, she steps out of the car.
I watch her readjust her oversized pink backpack. As the safety patrol shuts my door, wishing me a good day, I overhear my daughter talking to a teacher.
“My stomach hurts,” she tells the woman. “I think I’m going to get in trouble again today.”