Every year, the milestone comes. Yes, I am referring to the first day of school. The mourning of summer’s passing brings us a slight feeling of dread. However, the excitement of new beginnings and starting with a clean slate wins out for those first few days.
This is the first year I did not cry since the year I dropped off my oldest child at preschool so many years ago. Initially, I thought it was because I was so busy, I simply had my mind on the many things I had to accomplish. My brain just would not let me go on the sentimental journey it always takes this time of year.
No matter how old my children are when I drop them off that first day of school, I still see them as small kindergartners, clutching their backpacks, walking into that big bad school, feeling overwhelmed. They grasped my hand, needing me to let go so they could start their new journey yet at the same time holding it tightly and wanting me to stay with them.
These days, there is no hand grasping or the need to have Mom walk them to class. They know how to find their own way -- in more ways than just on the first day of school. It is bittersweet.
My youngest child, Gabriella, did “allow” me to walk her to her classroom. (It helps being the PTA president and claiming I needed to go into the school anyway.) As we walked through the halls, she chattered excitedly about her new teacher, new friends, and how she felt so grown up being in third grade now. I was the one who felt the need to grasp her hand as we walked. As soon as we arrived at her classroom, she turned, told me goodbye, smiled, and gave me a big hug. The tables had turned on us -- she knew I was the one who really needed the hug this year. I watched her walk to her desk, take out her pencil, and begin her morning work, never looking back. Usually, I'd tear up at this, but this year, it filled me with an unusual first-day-of-school feeling: pride.
Both of my boys were eager to get to school early to meet up with friends, get their lockers ready, and hang out before school. The best I got out of them was a mumbled “love you” as they leapt out of the van.
I watched my older son walk into his high school with a sense of who he is, comfortable in his own skin. (Sporting a mohawk and being just over six feet tall does help that situation as well.) I could not believe this man/child was the same little boy I walked to school so many years ago. He looked back and gave me a half wave and smile knowing what I was thinking as I watched him walk away.
My younger son was the one who made me laugh. As I babbled on about having a good day, wishing him luck, making sure he had his cell phone if he needed me etc., he laughed before he got out of the van and said, “Mom, it’s all good, ya dork!” (Plus, I got the mumbled “love you” from him as well.)
Every milestone these kids encounter brings them closer to independence and further away from me, which is where the tears used to come from. However, this year, I was proud to know they were confident in who they are, separate from me, and I rejoiced in this milestone. Sure, I felt a bit of a tug when I came home to an empty house, but this year, it felt like I was doing a good job as their mother to see them so self-assured.
Now I am counting down the days until winter break. Not because I need everyone at home again, but because I already miss sleeping in every morning. The kids will be just fine. It’s Mom who is having a hard time getting used to these school hours!