August 26, 2013

Kindergarten Blues

I shuffled around, half-asleep, grumbling about the ungodly hour of darkness and how we would need to be getting to bed much earlier to make sure that mama didn’t feel quite like a collapsed soufflĂ© every morning, add infinity or the rest of the school year or whatever. My son, with his big smile. Excitedly chattering about his lunch, his snack bag, his backpack, his shoes (“the new ones? do I get to wear the new ones?”). Putting on cologne and his Daddy’s deodorant. He was proud of himself. He was excited.

He was up at 5:30am.  Up and ready to meet his newest adventure: Kindergarten.  Had it not been for the multiple times I had to reign him back in, he would have been dressed, packed up, breakfast down, and ready to walk out the door at 6am.  He might have even tried waiting for me on the front porch, if I hadn’t warned him to keep his little self “put” at the breakfast table.

And I was in motion.  Mom motion.  Writing his name on his backpack (how did I forget to do that weeks ago?), filling up his drink holder, packing his lunch, waking up his sister, details and more details and the sort of last minute things that Moms the world over would be tending to on a day like today. 

We scrambled out the door without the “1st Day of Kindergarten” photos under our belt.  I gasped and hustled everyone back into the house, grabbed my camera and a chalkboard….scribbled as quickly as possible and with as much middle school swirly panache as I could muster….rushed them back out front and tried (in vain) to capture my son posing for this major milestone he was minutes away from venturing to.  Instead he covered his face, groaned at me, forced a couple smiles, gave me a couple natural ones, and then told his sister she was standing “too close to me!”  Sigh…
IMG_7068    IMG_7070

I tossed the camera back in the house (no, literally…like I chucked it towards something soft) and we were outta there.  Now let me just stop right here to point out that Texas Carpool for Elementary school is NO FREAKING JOKE.  And on the first day of school?  Just fugghetaboutit.  No really.  It’s just all sorts of chaos.  My idea to drive us as close as possible and walk the rest of the way worked...ish.  Except for the fact that getting “close” was such a relative term.  Like “the Sun is close to the earth”.  Well, yes…if you’re comparing light years.  (grumble)  AND except for the fact that it's 7,000 degrees outside, even in the morning, and I wore jeans.  Look, I’m not going into detail, but that back sweat thing…it’s not for the weak.  I was dripping and panting and huffing by the time we hit the lobby of that school.  And the air-conditioned space I was holding out hope for like an oasis in the desert was completely overshadowed by 8 million other people all in the same building at the same time – with their own back sweat and whatever, thus sucking every OUNCE of cool air out of the building.  No matter, we trudged onward. 

And then it happened.

I looked down at Quint…wide-eyed, clasping my hand tightly, and taking in all the activity around him.  People milling everywhere, and kids talking and laughing, and parents hugging their babies. 

Friends, I was catapulted.  First into the past, to a tiny baby handed to me in a small room on the other side of the world.  To a 9 month old boy pulling himself up on the couch, grinning his gummy smile and bouncing up and down.  To a toddler learning to walk in his Sesame Street shoes.  I was seeing all of these moments so rapidly and I must have slowed my pace, because I realized that Quint was sort of in the lead and tugging me along.  It’s a good thing I had my sunglasses on, because the waterworks were not going to be held back by any loud hallways or squealing children.  No.  It happened so fast, in fact, that I had no time to react.  I just started to cry. 

So I choked it back, because I didn’t want Quint to see that.  I didn’t want him to wonder what was so scary about Kindergarten that his mother would be sobbing about leaving him there.  I wiped my eyes carefully and quickly and I took those last few steps to his classroom.  He went right to his desk, put his backpack on his chair and then sat down.  He looked up at me expectantly, and I just froze.  Is this the part where I leave you here to learn and experience and make your own way?  Where I trust you to the care of another even for just a handful of hours?  Where our long weekday mornings of cartoons, snacks, stories, and trips out and about have come to an end? 

And friends, for us, it was that moment.  And I won’t even bother lying to you and saying some sort of nostalgic heady inflated rhapsody of how poignant it was.  You know what?  It just hurt.  We prepared for it all summer, and yet still…

This is my firstborn.  My son.  My baby.  And he will always be all of those things.  But today, he started a version of his own journey and I got a firsthand reminder of what it means to “raise” your kids.  We’re raising them ultimately to leave.  To go out into the world and live their own lives and find the purpose that they’ve been created for.  And I heard Jesus whisper into my heart “He’s mine first" and “I’ll never leave him, even in the moments or the days when you have to”.  And I thought I would burst into tears again.  Or song.  But if you know me, neither one is that unusual….

Seeing as how my rendition of “Don’t cry for me Argentina” was a little rusty and I didn’t want to scare a group of what I assumed are lovely 5-year olds, I opted for taking a few more pictures, over-smiling and telling him how great his day would be.  Then feeling myself move towards the door and back down that hallway and towards that foyer where we entered.  And on my way out, do you know what I saw?

Mothers.  Dozens and dozens of mothers.  Teary eyed mothers walking sans children, making their way out.  All that chatter replaced by a quiet reflection as we walked away.  There we all were, like a glorious collection of hard work, sweat, tears, laughter, and years of labor that only a mother can know.  Poured out into these little people willingly and lovingly and painstakingly.  One day at a time and with as much as each of us individually could muster.  Our hearts and our joy and sometimes our frustration, and here we were watching them grow up.  We were letting them test out their wings without us.  And it hurt.  All this unspoken truth floating in the space between us, about how much it wrecks you…the unknown.  How we all know it will be ok – because after all, we’ve been through it as children ourselves.

Just the same, there was a lot of torn heartache in that building this morning.  A lot of sad mother birds walking away as they gently nudged their little ones out of the nest.  In a way, it comforted me.  It’s a right of passage as much for parents as it is for the children.  In another way, I felt a longing loneliness for those five years that ran so fast away from me and for all the wonderful stages that were sadly and it seemed, quite suddenly, part of our past.  Nothing I could do to bring them back…just remember and treasure them.

And treasure this moment as well.  Because as surely as I have blinked  and he was this sweet boy, a big Kindergartener, on this morning and on this day…


…I will blink again and he will be going into college.

I have a good feeling I’ll be longing for today again…


Judy McCollough said...

Sweet blog. And here I thought our drives and drop offs were lengthy and crowded. Actually, here in Cali, the cars get in long long line and the teachers greet us at the sidewalk and we drop off and drive off. Of course, we don't do that on the first day of school.

likeschocolate said...

I hear you on the car pool. It is freaking crazy at our school. I would swear at least three hundred or more people drive their kids each day. THe problem is our busses come way to early because they have to get the next load of children for the middle and high school, but it is brutal on the little one. We have to catch the bus at 6:40 am. Should be a crime. Anyway, so many parents choose to drive their kids, so they can sleep and extra 20 minutes or so. Love your gangs smile. Have a great school year!

Unknown said...

So glad you are back! This is just beautiful.

Debbie said...

Such a sweet post!

I hope it is an awesome Kindergarten year!!!

Sean and Mic said...

Love your post! Mine started kindergarten last year, and same thing- walking in the building I felt a little sob escape. I rembered being handed her in China and surely she could not be going to school now- she still needed me!! Sigh. I was more smiles this year with first grade- but it still happens tooooo fast!
Love your blog- have been reading for several years!