The first day of school…and other firsts

There was no sound and no light. I woke up this morning two hours earlier than I usually do, and what I felt was anticipation. While the rest of my house was asleep, I began creating my Action and Project lists for the day in my head, with my eyes still closed, organizing and rearranging them according to priority and the time I had to accomplish them. When I couldn’t tolerate lying in the bed while my head was so active, I got up and made my way through the dark, down the stairs and towards the coffee.

Today was a special day. My first-born, Charlie, started First Grade (or Grade One as they call it here in Canadaland). I bet the other parents out there who are reading this don’t really have to read any further to know what I’m going to say. It seems there’s some sort of coding in our genes that causes us to experience certain things in certain ways. I thought I was going to be exempt from being emotional about my son going off to his first day of school. Ha!

I did the usual things to ready myself and the family for the day: made breakfasts, lunches, prepped backpacks, showered, dressed, gave instructions to the kids and dressed the baby. Then we sent Dad off to work and left for school. It’s a short walk–even with the ridiculously large backpack the kids carry these days, loaded down with all sorts of school supplies they are required to bring on the first day. Dang thing was almost as big (and heavy) as my six-year-old.

We walked the whole way holding hands. (I used my other hand to pull the wagon carrying my two younger kids.) When we reached the playground behind the school, several of Charlie’s classmates from Kindergarten started showing up and chatting. One of his best friends, Faith, stood beside him the whole time. She is the type of girl who always looks out for other kids. She noticed another of their friends was standing by himself, and suggested to Charlie that they should go stand with him.

Charlie agreed, and in that instant, the two of them grabbed hands and started heading towards their friend. I asked Charlie if he was going to tell me goodbye. He said, “Bye, Mom.” Then turned his back and walked away from me and towards Adolescence. All of a sudden I couldn’t swallow, which made it hard to breathe. I stood there watching him walking away, not looking back, holding his friend’s hand in a completely unself-conscious way, not needing me to be there with him.

My younger son was repeating something like, “Mom, can we go now?” several times as I stared at Charlie’s back. I was having a hard time hearing as well as breathing. I briefly thought of walking over to my First Grader and telling him I’d wait with him until the bell rang. Instead, I made myself turn around, without looking back, and pull the wagon towards home.

It is not a slight blow to feel my child needing me less. But the salve that soothes it is watching him be happy, confident and ready to face the first round of firsts in his life. Oh, so bittersweet.

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September 2008

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