When I first saw her, I thought nothing of it. She was just another passerby. People come and go all day long. Sometimes I am able to give a welcoming smile, other times, like today, if I am preoccupied, I am not able to give anyone, other than my friends, my complete attention.
My friends, bound and determined to do what they needed to do to earn a bright red Skittle. Unless it is Adam, Adam prefers the green Skittles and will tell you just that.
She was young. Early twenties. Attractive. Dark hair secured tightly in a bun with gold hoop earrings. A pair of black boots paired nicely with skinny jeans and a long white sweater. I only noticed this because she did not leave her spot in front of the brick wall. Perhaps she is waiting for someone?
One of my proudest accomplishments is teaching my little friends my name. I told you, they will do anything for Skittles. Of course, saying my name is not exactly on the curriculum, but I think it is a good thing.
*gives me a high five*
“What’s your name?”
*Says their name*
“What’s my name?”
Just as excited as can be because they know they have now earned a Skittle. I mean truth be told at this point I do not know who is more excited, them for the Skittle or me from hearing cute little people say my name, that I taught them to say.
Once I heard the final “Jennifer” from my friends, I glanced up. She was still standing in front of the brick wall. I noticed she was digging in her purse.
I was being summoned. It’s okay though because my little friends are doing work. It may not seem like it to the untrained eye, but my little friends who all have an autism diagnosis are working pretty damn hard for a Skittle.
Once again, I go through the routine, this time adding in numbers.
“Okay, let’s count to 5!”
*They count to ten*
“Well, this time you earned two Skittles!”
Quite content they got one over on me, they run off and play.
She is now wiping her eyes with a crumpled tissue from her purse. As she wipes her eyes, she checks the tissue for remnants of her eye makeup. I look around to see if my other two coworkers notice. Both are hanging out with their own little friends, although just between us, I am the only one that offers Skittles.
I make my way across the small enclosed playground. My little friends are quite content playing chase or sliding down the slide. By my estimation I have 5.3 seconds before one of them will look for me, in the hunt for Skittles.
The closer I get, I see that her crying is uncontrollable. She no longer uses the tissue, and now uses the sleeve of her sweater. I cringe only because I know how hard black mascara is to get off of white.
She looks in my direction. We make eye contact for a split second. It’s almost as if she cried harder once she saw me.
I now feel the right thing to do is to go over and make sure she is okay. I walk slowly, keeping my friends in site, making sure they are good for now.
The closer I get to her, it hits me.
I have been there.
I am still there. It never gets easier. They tell you it will, but it never does.
“Hi! How ya doing. I’m Jennifer. Everything okay, can I get you anything?”
She smiles behind more tears.
Yep. This is me.
Trying to talk in between sobs,
“I—I am sorry. I—I just dropped my daughter off. It’s—–it’s her first day—–and—–”
I take the lock off the gate.
I go to her and give her a hug (and if you know me this isn’t exactly my thing!)
“Oh, it’s okay. I have been there. Your daughter is in good hands. Trust me, it is harder for us than it is for her. I mean my kids are in 6th and 8th grade and I still cry.”
She looks at me, wipes her teams some more. Kinda laughs, while still crying.
“It’s just—-I am just—–so new to this.”
One of my coworkers makes their way over to me. As I am hugging her, I mouth “New Mom”
My wonderful, understanding coworker gives me a “thumbs up” and goes to hang out with my little friends.
We are all in this together.
If you happen to be a new mom to a preschooler. I feel you. I was you. I still am you. Because whether you are dropping your child off for 2nd grade, 6th grade, 10 grade or at college, it really does not get easier.
So, take a deep breath, feel what you need to feel.
But at the end of the day, just know, you are not alone.