It's the first day of preschool for my 3-year-old — the inaugural day of school, period, for any of my kids — and I'm more nervous than she is.
What if her classmates don't accept her? What if she swears in class, and explains she heard her daddy say that word? What is she tells her teachers I've let her watch "The Walking Dead?"
The first-ever day of school is one of the biggest milestones for any parent. It's understandable it would make me anxious.
But I wasn't going to let my own hang-ups affect her.
My daughter was excited for weeks for the start of preschool. It's not surprising, given that she's one of the most friendly people I've ever met.
She specifically requested a "Paw Patrol" backpack, which she wore often in the days leading up to her first one of school.
So if I was apprehensive, I wasn't going to let my daughter see it. I wasn't going to ruin this for her. For generations, parents have been passing on their neuroses to their kids. I hope to help put therapists out of business.
Take her sociability, for instance. I don't always want to interact with every parent of every child she has to say hi to on the street. I'm reserved; she's outgoing. So what? I'm not going to change her personality because I'd rather be watching "Better Call Saul" than talking to a stranger.
I plan to let her learn who she wants to be, stewing in my own discomfort if necessary. Helicopter I will not.
Growing up, some of the most mischievous kids I knew were the ones with the strictest moms and dads. Conversely, I also had classmates whose parents did drugs with them. There has to be a middle way: a mix of discipline and positive reinforcement crossed with giving them the freedom to fail.
I allow my daughter to play and get dirty and fall and scrape her knees. I let her sample any food — spicy, sweet, salty — without interjecting my biases, so she can develop her own tastes. Same goes for books and music and movies and, later, for politics and religion.
Parenting is a sacrifice. Too many moms and dads act like raising their children is somehow a favor they're bestowing on them. Kids — even at the age of 3 — have to find their own identities.
On the first day of preschool, the parents attended. My daughter kept close to me, even tried sitting on my lap at a point or two.
I dropped her off on her third day. She was so excited she made me go early. We waited for the teachers to open the door at the strike of noon.
This time, I wouldn't get to stay. It was likely the first of many occasions I will have to let her go: to high school, college, marriage.
As soon as the teacher cracked the door, my daughter ran up to it. She cheered, and went inside the classroom. She didn't even look back at me.