We walk up to the door of her preschool classroom, the one with her name printed neatly on a yellow daisy, a single flower in a large paper bouquet. We both knock, her soft knuckles banging into the wood, mine lightly rapping.
There is loud crying on the other side of the door. The kind of crying that makes me want to turn around, cancel my dentist appointment and snuggle with my girl for the rest of the morning. Instead, we smile at each other and then at the teacher who opens the door and welcomes us in.
I kiss the top of her head and wave goodbye. She walks in without glancing back at me, looking instead at the boy with tears streaming down his face.
The door closes behind her and I walk away, the wails of someone else's baby ringing in my ears.
When I come to pick her up, she jumps into my arms - this girl, she's a jumper - and we cuddle for a minute. I sniff her hair, ask her about her morning, gather her things.
In the car she sings a new song, one I don't recognize, and it makes her laugh to hear me guess at the lyrics and title.
"Duckie goes shopping? In a barn? With a shoe?"
When we get home, she's yawning repeatedly, ready for lunch and a nap in that order, or possibly the reverse.
She wants "hum - hum, pret - pret and nofing else!" and I put hummus and pretzels and nothing else - besides a few baby carrots and maybe some cucumber slices and OH LOOK a sugar snap pea! - on her plate. She pushes our seats together so we are touching and grabs one of my hands to cuddle with while she eats. Half way through the meal, this closeness isn't enough and she climbs into my lap.
I think about CG and how we agreed that our kids needed to sit in their own seats during meals, no exceptions. I think about Z and the battles we had with her at this age, ending several meals when she refused to stay seated.
I think about this as I let E sit on my lap and we feed each other, pausing to give and receive kisses and nose nuzzles and giggly hugs. I let the guilt slip away, there is no one else here. She needs this closeness. I need this closeness. No one has to know.
When I tuck her in for her nap, she stretches almost all the way across her crib and I think it's past time to take the side off her crib but I'm just not ready yet and I close the door and walk away, the tune about Duckie going shopping ringing in my ears.