the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Second grade

Last week Leta started second grade. I just had to let that sink in for a second because the memories I have of holding her in the earliest days of her life and thinking OH MY GOD, HOT POTATO! are distinct. So are the memories of her third year of life where she spent most of her time lying face down on the floor because that’s the direction she had thrown her body.

The drop-off on her first day of preschool? Unbearable. Kindergarten? Just a tiny bit less unbearable. First grade? Heart-wrenching. Second grade?

“Bye,” I said when it was time for me to leave.

“Bye, mom,” she said.

“No, really. I’m leaving, Leta.”

“That’s what bye usually means.”

“You going to be okay?”

She looked around and then lowered her voice to a whisper. “Can you please go now?

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

Jon and I woke up that morning and said something to each other about preparing for the emotional bomb that would surely unfold. She handles anxiety like I did in that everything turns into an obstacle, and there were hints of this. Like when I walked with her upstairs and said, “I’m going to go put on my clothes, and while I’m doing that… you know… just get dressed.”

She shook her head and emphasized several blinks. “JUST get dressed?”

“Yes,” I said. “Just get dressed.”

“But what about brushing my teeth? You’re going to send me to school with dirty teeth?!”

“Wait, what?” I asked.

“You said JUST GET DRESSED. What about my hair? Am I supposed to brush my hair?!”

“When I said JUST GET DRESSED that meant your teeth and your hair included. It’s a whole package.”

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN PACKAGE? Like something you pick up from the mailbox?!”

I held my mouth shut tightly for a second to gain my composure because I suddenly remembered what a nightmare it can be to get her dressed before school every morning. And this wasn’t so much a nightmare as it was HOLY SHIT, I feel like I’m having a conversation with a person who has just smoked an entire joint.

I put my hands on her shoulders, kneeled down and said, “Please go put on your shirt and then your shorts. Then, brush your teeth and your hair. After that, go put on your socks and shoes. Finally, meet me downstairs.”

This made so much more sense to her NOW THAT SHE WAS SOBER and she said, “Ok, phew. I didn’t want to start second grade with dirty teeth.”


But then, that super awesome, no-drama drop-off. And the following day she told me that she just wanted me to let her out by the front door because she was in second grade and didn’t need someone to walk her to class like a first grader. When she got out of the car I expected her to do a swanky side-step while singing “Grease Lightning.”

And just like that, another major milestone in the rearview. I am the mother of a second grader.

Second grader

(This is a photo of her the week she started preschool. I just… whoa.)

  • TxSuzyQ

    2011/09/02 at 12:32 pm

    Wow! Miss Leta is growing up so fast and that is an incredible photograph of her. Love her new hairstyle, too!

    Btw, I know you have had a few issues with skin cancer and all, but it is okay to let her get just a little sun!

  • Greygirl

    2011/09/02 at 12:33 pm

    Well, you can’t wear a cool pink feather in your hair AND have your mom walk you to your classroom. I mean, come on, Heather! Everyone knows that!
    She’s really beautiful.

  • jalla

    2011/09/02 at 1:12 pm

    Your daughter looks stunningly beautiful. Such a presence in that photo, just woha.

  • Coyote

    2011/09/02 at 1:18 pm

    My god. Can she BE any more beautiful?
    Super cute hair and outfit, too!
    And let us not forget the excellent parenting 🙂

  • Jeanie

    2011/09/02 at 2:11 pm

    She is beautiful!

  • cobaltblue

    2011/09/02 at 3:50 pm

    If your daughter’s skin were any more luminescent and gorgeous, I’d think she was a divine apparition. Yeesh.

  • Mama2Boys

    2011/09/02 at 4:23 pm

    My oldest started 1st grade this week and after many tearful bus stops last year I was dreading this past Wednesday. Went off without a hitch! Oh…and thanks for showing the preschool pic of Leta. Made me want to cry and she’s not even my kid! : )

  • allegrapostsforrose

    2011/09/02 at 8:03 pm

    Phew! I’m not alone…my 2nd grader had the same type of reaction (or lack thereof) on her first day of school…and I was happy and sad all at the same time. They grow up, I guess!


  • J. Bo

    2011/09/02 at 11:48 pm

    Leta is brilliant… and clearly crazy… and exceptionally/exotically beautiful. She was lucky to be born into a family that “gets” her, and her family is lucky to have “gotten” her in return.

  • Jackie P

    2011/09/03 at 9:02 am

    After struggling all day with my 10-month old baby and asking myself what I got myself into, I am grateful to have read your post. It reminded me that it will pass all too fast and to appreciate this tiny being, even if he cries, screams and refuses to sleep.
    Your daughter is beautiful and you must be so very proud. Congrats on being a great mom. I have taken so much from your posts and I mean it when I say you get me through my rough days at times!

  • Mama Kat

    2011/09/04 at 9:54 pm

    I wish my son would smoke a joint before preschool. He cried for an entire hour on his first day and when I picked him up he begged me not to “get lost” from him again.

    Have mercy.

    Cheers to confident second graders who can brush their own teeth! And shots all around for SCHOOL STARTING AGAIN! Thank you Jesus.

  • julieisthebest

    2011/09/06 at 3:50 pm

    Wow, she looks so grown up. I know you don’t need us to tell you that but still. I haven’t been coming by the site as regularly as I used to so this photo REALLY took me by surprise. Crazy.

  • TheCraftyAngel

    2011/09/12 at 1:12 am

    OH MY GOD. Forgive me, I’ve been away from the awesomeness that is your blog for too long.

    Who is that amazingly fetching young girl there? That simply CANNOT be Leta. Nuh uh. Nope. She looks too old!

    Wow…I know how fast time is flying around here, because I have a junior in high school (wait til your girls are 16 hehehe) and a 4th grader (boys make your hair turn white. It is a proven fact). And I remember infancy so clearly it hurts. In so many ways.

    Congrats on an easier start to school! Her glasses look *precious* (we are a “four eyed family” around here with the exception of the teenager who refuses to wear them).


  • skradei

    2011/09/12 at 10:49 am

    The photo. Wow. Something about her eyes and that hint of a smile… You see this picture and you just have to love her.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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