It may have been the 2nd week of mandatory chemo suspension for Atia, due to her low blood counts, but it was also the first week of school. It never ceased to amaze me how life went on, even when our immediate reality was moving in slow motion, as if we were trudging through a swamp of molasses, fighting for every single step forward.
Atia was 3 years old and she’d been in pseudo isolation for over a year. She was itching to socialize, to learn, to be independent. She was such a brilliant child and no matter the circumstances her bright light shined from within, illuminating those around her.
It was no secret that she and I were entangled in a deep-seated interdependence. I had spent hours upon hours cuddling with her over the last year, as much for her comfort as for my security; I NEEDED to hold her, to touch her, to be one with her. In my distressed mind, as long as I could physically hold her, everything would be okay, as if my embrace was a magical force field protecting her, revitalizing her, guaranteeing her recovery.
You’ve heard of the boy in the bubble, well, I was Atia’s bubble. We were practically attached at the hip. I often joked with her to “get in my belly” (from Austin Powers), because that’s where I felt I had sheltered her best.
Rational thinking doesn’t always apply to a parent desperate to do anything to save their child. Clearly, she couldn’t crawl back into my tummy, but the thought of it brought a sense of peace to my somber mind.
The truth is, my dependence was immutable, whereas hers was intermittent. If I had it my way, we’d never separate. But when she was feeling well and the cancer was more of an inconvenience than a focus, she was a typical child full of zest and desire to experience the world around her and everything it had to offer.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my first taste of letting go came in the form of a one hour Spanish class. A class void of parental interaction. She thrived, while I practically crumble with fear. But as a mother, I suppressed my own anxiety for the good of my child’s experience. It was time for preschool. She wanted it, and I wanted it for her.
So, on September 27, 2010 Atia attended her 1st day of preschool at FasTracKids. Her schedule would be Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm – three hours, three times a week that she would be on her own, without me.
We were warmly welcomed by her teacher and the entire staff; they celebrated Atia’s presence. I was beyond grateful for their kindness and sensitivity to our special needs.
Upon entering her classroom, she only briefly paused before releasing my hand. She was so excited! She loved everything about exploring her new classroom. Without second thought, she’d taken her first steps toward independence. Cancer was the furthest thing from her mind. That day, she was just a 3 year old girl living life. And I was a proud mommy, tormented by the knowledge that her immune system still wasn’t strong enough to resume chemo treatment.
I would have taken her cancer from her if I could, so baring the burden of knowing her susceptibility, so that she could carelessly enjoy the bliss of preschool, was a small price to pay.
Atia’s 1st day of preschool was PERFECT!
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