Because I drop the kids off early in order to get to work, I had to leave Bubba and Punkin in the gymnasium with about a hundred other kids to wait until it was time to go to their class. Bubba immediately found all his friends and was soon jabbering away, barely noticing my presence. Punkin and I found the line where the kindergarten class was supposed to sit. She didn't cry. She didn't cling to me, as she so often does when she's nervous. She just sat down on the line, criss-cross-applesauce and hugged her bookbag to her chest. I gave her a kiss, told her I loved her and told her I had to leave.
"Have a great day, okay?"
I walked away and turned back to look at her when I reached the gym door. She looked so little sitting there. She saw me looking at her and then she smiled a huge smile and waved at me. I waved back.
I made it to the car. I even made it out of the parking lot. It was only when I called Mr. Daddy to give him a report of how it went that I broke down. And it wasn't full on sobbing, just a catch in my throat and tears pricking behind my eyes.
When I picked them up that afternoon, Punkin rounded the corner first, sweaty but looking happy. She got a smiley face in her agenda, but more importantly she had a smile on her face. But one of the most exciting developments was also one of the most surprising. I asked her "Did you make any friends today?"
"Bubba!" You see, it turns out that Bubba and Punkin played together in after school. They haven't played well together at home in over a year, with most attempts at joint play evolving into a yell-fest with lots of tears. But on Friday Bubba even allowed Punkin to join the Memangee Club, a club created two years ago by a group of sweaty boys in the after school program. The only requirement to join the club, apparently, is to be able to chase Katie Smith really fast. Punkin, as it turns out, is a pretty fast runner. So, she's in like Flynn. Of course it doesn't hurt that Bubba is the President of the Memangee Club. And he's promised her that next year, she can be president.
It does my heart good to see him looking after her like that. She thinks he hung the moon, but she thinks he doesn't love her. He would probably like to pretend that he doesn't, but his actions on Friday make it pretty clear to me that he does. Hopefully she'll soon realize it too.