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Mazzy isn’t the only one around here growing up and getting a new school schedule. Yesterday was Harlow’s first day of school too. It’s a toddler drop-off class that meets for 2.5 hours twice a week at Mazzy’s old preschool.

We debated whether to send her or wait another year, but Harlow has spent so much time shadowing Mazzy and dropping her big sister off at assorted activities, we thought it would be nice to have something just for her.

On the walk over to school, I realized Harlow had her pacifier in her mouth. We’ve been trying to designate it as bedtime-only, but have clearly not been consistent. I asked her for it and she grunted “no” as only a child with a paci blocking their air passageway can.

Then I tried something we’ve been doing lately which works better. You have to put on your biggest smile and say in your most enthusiastic voice, “Harlow, you don’t need your pacifier! You don’t need it!”

She took it out from her mouth and handed to me. No tears or protest. I put it in my purse.

When we got to the school, Harlow tried to head up the stairs to where Mazzy’s old class was located but I redirected her to the toddler class downstairs.

I think that’s when she realized what was going on. She knew this place, she had been there every day all year to pick up Mazzy. But Mazzy wasn’t with us.

Harlow acted like a pig in shit the second she stepped in the class room. While most of the kids chose one activity and busied themselves quietly, Harlow ran around to each station, unable to believe she was allowed to touch everything.

She played with playdough, she stacked all the magnatiles on a light table, she took out every baby doll and undressed them, she made pretend snacks in the play kitchen, she banged puzzle pieces against the puzzles, she took cups from the play kitchen and brought them over the playdough station, put all the playdough inside and then went back to feed them to the babies… and that was all before they went outside to the play yard.

Honestly, I think it was her best day.

Well, her best hour, since we are starting with one hour for the phase-in period. Right now, I’m in the room with her and over the course of the next few weeks, I will slowly disappear.

As is life.

At the end of the hour, the teachers gathered all the kids and parents for circle time with a few songs. All the kids sat in their moms’ laps, but Harlow chose a spot across the room. Then she demonstrated that she knows all the words and all the hand movements to “Wheels on the Bus”. There were even a few movements the teachers did differently than she had been taught at home and I watched her stop, observe and then switch to their gestures. A big smile when she mastered each one.

When I’ve spoken about Harlow going to drop-off school with my friends, I say that I’m worried about separation anxiety. That Harlow isn’t going to take to being away from home as easily as Mazzy, who never shed a tear when I walked out of the room.

I compare Harlow to Mazzy all the time. I say she is more serious, clingier, slower to learn language, and she takes a while to warm up to new people.

But that was not the Harlow I saw at her first day of school.

She was excited, eager to try new things and ready to show-off everything she already knew. She only came over to me twice in the hour that we were there, and it was to show me something she had discovered, not because she needed extra comfort. She used her words with the teachers and she smiled ear to ear the entire time.

Harlow came out of Mazzy’s shadow yesterday.

Maybe she has been there all along.