It started as a typical morning, racing around with the goal of not being late for preschool drop off. Though, this day was anything but normal: It was my daughter’s last day of school. Her first year of preschool would soon be under her belt; an achievement my husband and I weren’t sure was even possible when she was born more than 17 weeks premature.
Before loading her up in the car, I positioned Peyton in the “First Day of School” spot at our front door. With my camera in hand, I snapped one final photo. That signature picture at our front door illustrated a complete transformation from a young toddler into a smart and mature little girl. Where did my tiny baby go?
As I began our 10-minute drive to school, my mind wandered back to that first day when nerves and tears consumed me. It was a bittersweet year as I managed the emotions of being proud of our surviving triplet, but grieving the fact that her brother and sister in heaven would never walk the school halls with Peyton. As I look back at that first day, I realize I could learn a thing or two from my almost 4-year-old child. Her sweet disposition and her “I can do anything” attitude helped her conquer the first year of school with no fear. Yet there I was on that very first day, a blubbering mess, wondering whether my premature child could keep up with children her own age.
The school year proved to be challenging at times for my daughter, but those fears and concerns I once had, quickly disappeared as the months flew by. She may not be able to write her name, but while she lacks in certain skills, she excels in others. My heart swells with pride each time I watch her excitedly tell me about her day. Peyton’s wild imagination and creativity will take her far in life. Thanks to my daughter, I was reminded that development isn’t one size fits all. Each child goes at their pace.
As a first time parent, I had no idea what to expect throughout the school year. The first time the teacher pulled me aside with a concern, I did everything I could to hold back the tears. Peyton wasn’t listening to the teachers, instead, kindly responding “no” when she was asked to complete a task. At that moment I felt like a failure, a parent who didn’t know how to control their child. But as I soon found out, there was no need to worry; these actions are completely common for a typical preschool toddler. Months later, I can chuckle about my overly emotional self… I chalk it up to being a clueless, first time parent!
As we approached the school, that familiar lump in my throat appeared. My eyes became watery as I thought about all that my daughter has overcome in her short life and all that she has to look forward to in the years to come. While we held hands as we walked through the parking lot, she quickly let go as she ran towards her friends inside the classroom. There was no clinging and no fret that her mother was about to leave. Instead, this confident little girl was full of energy and excitement as she shared her plans for the summer break. As I watched from the doorway, the familiar tears once again began to trickle down my face. The fears, the worry and the anxiety that consumed me at the beginning of the year were now gone. My reserved toddler was exuding confidence; a happy child unaware of the challenges she faced early in her life. As I walked out of preschool on that final school day, a weight was lifted. My daughter learned more than I ever imagined in that first year. And because of her, I learned important life lessons along the way. As I climbed into my car, a smile swept over me. Life is too short to worry. Instead, my daughter showed me how to embrace each moment with enthusiasm, for we never know what tomorrow may bring.
A version of this originally appeared at Perfectly Peyton