My baby, child number four, started kindergarten this year and it truly, physically hurt. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve had such a strong visceral reaction. I don’t know if it’s because he’s the last one or if it’s because of the grief I’ve been feeling all summer. Either way, the event has left me with a thin veil of melancholy, which is affecting my overall outlook on life lately. Six weeks later and I’m still not passed it. I now have two children in middle school and two in elementary school. No more toddlers. No more preschool. Oh the cruelty of time…”The days are long, but the years are short.”
I’ve been dreading this all summer, but there was no more putting it off. Cammy is six years-old, and he’s already been held back a year due to a number of factors: his July birthday, his physical size, his speech articulation and his mommy’s inability to let go. When we attended kindergarten round-up before school started, I swear it felt like I was walking on death row, as I made my way down the hallway to what would be his first elementary school classroom. I didn’t feel any of the excitement I’d felt when I did that with Hunter, nor any of the anxiety I’d had when I escorted Bear. I didn’t struggle with bittersweet ambivalence as I’d had when it was Audrey’s turn. This time, I felt sadness. I felt old.
It wasn’t my first time at the rodeo. I didn’t care to tour the school that I was already so familiar with. I didn’t want to hear the lecture strongly advising us to let our children ride the bus the first day and to make our good-byes swift, so as to not to mess with bus schedules. I wasn’t concerned about grading rubrics or lunch money. I had to restrain my eye rolls during the speeches that encouraged volunteering in the classroom and for the PTA. As I looked around at some of the young, eager faces of the moms who were obviously there for the first time, I felt my age and the weight of my seasoned disenchantment with school politics. Yet, I was also able to remember the excitement I’d once felt as a new school parent, which made me a little envious. A part of me, tired though I am, wants to go back and do it all again, with my first two. It just goes by so fast. Too fast. When I looked over at Camden all I saw was my baby, who was taking yet another step away from me.
I ignored the advice and drove Cammy to school on his first day, along with his sister, who was entering the third grade. As we got in line – and it was long – to get my badge so I could walk him to class, the tears started. I tried to discretely wipe them away. That was when Audrey decided that she’d be okay going to class on her own. Off she went, without a kiss, without looking back.
In his classroom, Cammy hugged me and told me he loved me. He was excited, as he should be, and I tried to be excited for him. It wasn’t the time for me to rain on his parade with my tears. I managed to hold it together – just barely. I took a few pictures, but I could tell the teacher had pegged me as a “handle with care” mom. It was time to for me to bid adieu. I put my sunglasses back on and slipped out of the room. I watched from the door for a few seconds, which was all I could handle. He was on his way. Happy. Ready. But I was going to miss him.
I spent the whole day, a rainy gloomy day, alone. I didn’t talk to anyone. Rich was out of town, and come to think of it, he probably planned it that way. My heart hurt and I cried myself a river. A little melodramatic? Absolutely! An accurate reflection? Afraid so.
After a few days of driving him, I took another big leap and put him on the bus. He climbed that first big step and said his sweet goodbye – and he didn’t look back.
And so it begins. I still can’t believe it. Kindergarten. Wow.
Am I crazy? Did anyone else have a similar reaction when the last one went off to big kid school? Or the first? Any first day of kindergarten stories to share? What am I going to do when I drop him at college? Rich has already said I can’t be involved when that time comes. And how about Audrey, dissing me?