Every morning, I take Phaedra to kindergarten, and if (Praise Jesus!) we’re not running late, she stands in line outside her school with the rest of her classmates. She loves it. In the chilly Michigan fall and colder Michigan winter weather, I stand there watching her goof around with her friends — talking, laughing, sometimes pushing, often hugging. None of them are just friends — they’re all “best friends”. Phaedra can name at least ten best friends from school, and usually the list is different each time you ask her.
I always stand and wait until her line marches from the little blacktop patch behind the school, down the sidewalk, and into the doors of the building. Only about three other moms and dads do this anymore. It’s cold, I guess, and I mostly see kids either running out of cars from the parking lot or from the school bus. But I still wait. I can’t just leave her there. Before she heads into the school, every single day, in front of all her friends, I stop her, give her a big hug, and tell her, “Bye baby! I love you! Have a good day at school!” And every single day, she hugs me back, and says, “Bye Mama, I love you too.”
There’s no way I would leave that school without doing that or hearing her say that. No way.
One morning a few weeks ago, her friend Blanche, she of the over-enthusiastic neck-hugs, saw me give Phaedra her goodbye hug. She shyly said, “Bye!” and came in for a hug. So, I said, “Bye Blanche! Have a good day!” and hugged her back, smiling at the sweet little gesture. I went off to work, thinking nothing of it. The next morning, I gave a goodbye hug to Phaedra, then Blanche, and then Avril, her other best friend. The next day, I hugged Blanche, Avril, Lucinda, Jaslene, and Meryl*. A series of little girls come one by one to get their hug, just like that scene at the end of Despicable Me. I don’t even know these kids, but I’m now their substitute mom every morning. And to be honest, it made me a little uncomfortable.
I was kind of conflicted about this situation. On the one hand, I felt good about it. I feel like I’m giving them one last bit of affection and good wishes before the school day begins. I mean, hugs are fun, right? I think their moms and dads might appreciate that. But what if they don’t? What if they think, “Hey man, how dare you? I don’t know you! Psycho, please quit hugging my kid.” I’m not trying to be that weird mom at school, or overstep my bounds with someone else’s kid. So I wasn’t sure if I should keep hugging these kids every morning.
Then a horrible thing happened this morning. And all day I couldn’t help but thinking in terms of “what if”. What if that had happened here? What if that was Phaedra’s school, and I got that kind of news at work? What if it was my baby that wasn’t coming home tonight? What if the goodbye we had this morning was our last goodbye? Would I be pissed or thankful that someone else had hugged my little girl this morning?
I’m so glad I hugged those precious girls.
*If you can’t tell by now that all these names are fake, well, come on now.