It’s fascinating watching your little one grow up. I know I’m not unique in this, all parents have gone through it but as this is my first time to experience it, and Monki’s first time to live through it, I find it endlessly enlightening.
Normally, when I write about her, it’s usually about some major moment or life event, and today is no exception, but it’s not a huge event when we, as parents, have to reevaluate something or explain some deep philosophy of life. Nope, today’s event is Monki’s first big school trip. This morning, while eating breakfast, we were chatting about it.
“Are you excited?” I asked.
She nodded. “But also a little scared.”
“That’s understandable,” I offered.
“This is the furthest I’ve ever been from you.”
And she’s right. The kids in her class and another first-grade class at her school are going* to Birstonas, which is about an hour or so away from Kaunas. We’ve been there as a family, even climbing the big observation tower (well, I climbed it, carrying Monki, while Rasa, who is afraid of heights, stayed on the ground). We’re very excited for her, and yes, we too, are a little scared, but we know she’s going to be okay. We know this because we’ve been watching her stretch her independence for the last few weeks.
About a month ago (April 20, to be exact), she took the garbage out by herself for the first time. Now, if you grew up in a house, this might not seem to be a big deal, but in our flat, it’s a bit more complicated. First, we’re on the 4th floor, so that means climbing down three flights of stairs and letting yourself out the security door (when we first moved in, 4 years ago, she couldn’t even reach the button!). Then, you have to make your way to the actual garbage cans. When I lived in Old Town, our garbage was about 500 meters away, across a couple of streets and in another yard. Here. It’s not so bad, but you do have to walk around the building and throw the trash into the appropriate bin (Yes, we separate and recycle). Now, we can see her as she walks in front of the building (we’ll often wave to each other when one of us leaves and someone stays home) but the actual garbage bins are out of sight.
For a kid who gets nervous when her mother takes the garbage out, being out of sight is a pretty big deal. But she did it. And when she returned, she was greeted with applause, lots of encouragement, and a “special sticker**.”
Since then, she’s taken out the garbage a few more times and she’s finding her boundaries. When we go to McDonald’s, she’s started going by herself to the bathroom to wash her hands and taking cash up to the counter at the bubble tea shop to order and pay on her own. These little steps towards independence are amazing.
But the big moment came yesterday, and this is the primary reason we’re not as worried as we might have been about today’s adventures.
Yesterday, Monki and Rasa were shopping at the big Maxima (one of our local grocery stores, this one just happens to be the largest in the city). While Rasa was in the produce section, Monki asked if she could go get her drinkable banana yogurt. Rasa agreed and off the little one went. No problems at all and she returned a few moments later with a couple of bottles of the stuff.
Into the basket it went. Then Monki remembered we should get pastries.
“Can I get the pastries?” she asked.
“Sure. Do you know where they are and how to get there and get back?”
“Uh huh. Just stay right where you are so I don’t get lost!”
Rasa assured her she would remain where she was and off Monki went to get the pastries.
And then didn’t come back. Rasa was dutifully waiting but this was taking longer than it should. Maybe there was a problem putting the Danish into the little bag or something. Not wanting to encroach, but also getting nervous, Rasa edged forward a little to where she could see the bakery area.
There was no Monki. Where could she have gone? Rasa started getting a little nervous (okay, a lot nervous) and turned back to where she said she’d be waiting. That’s when she saw Monki, running towards her, tears starting to form in the corners of her eyes. And behind Monki was a shop assistant, who obviously had been walking the lost little girl back to find her mother.
This is what happened: Monki got the pastry just fine, but then got confused and turned around and wasn’t sure where to go. And instead of freaking out or panicking, she did exactly what we’d told her to do in this situation – she found a woman who worked in the shop, explained the situation, and asked the woman to help her find her mommy.
No tears or nothing…at least not until she was back and safe. Until then she kept her cool and solved the problem. We were very proud of her…and told her so! And then, when the conversation turned to today’s trip, she knew she had already beaten the demon of getting lost or separated from the group, so she was confident and ready, even if it was the furthest she’d ever been from us.
And we’re also pretty confident she’s gonna be just fine…even if we’re not 100% ready.
*I’m writing this while she’s on the trip so as of right now, I have no idea how it’s going or will have gone.
**special stickers are the reward system we use. When she’s done something remarkable or noteworthy, a special sticker is the reward. She’ll proudly wear it, transferring it from outfit to outfit and eventually putting it on her whiteboard.