So the kids are back in school. It’s strange not to have to worry about school supplies, bus schedules and the first-day-of-school outfit. My youngest is in college now, an almost-grown man who requires nothing of me but a large pile of money. Since that was set aside long ago, a new school year is pretty stress-free these days.
But I remember my oldest child’s first day of kindergarten and how traumatic it was. For me, I mean. Standing with him at the bus stop, fussing over his hair and clothes, I didn’t want to let him go. How would he find his classroom? How would he know what bus to get on after school? How would he make it through the day without me?
As I tightened his shoelaces for the third time, the bus roared around the corner. My son was excited. I gave him a kiss and waved until the bus rode out of sight. Then I did what any emotionally crazed mother would do. I jumped in my van and followed.
I was waiting outside the elementary school when the kids filed off the bus. I noticed that there were plenty of teachers helping them. That was comforting. I asked one of them if I would walk my son to class. Taking his hand, I explained that this was the way he would go every day, just as they had shown us at orientation. “I know, Mommy”, he answered, strutting ahead of me and dropping my hand.
His teacher was waiting at the door ready to greet us. She smiled and knelt down to welcome my son. She was so sweet to him and he seemed so taken by her, that when she stood to speak to me I had tears in my eyes.
It was like watching my husband flirt with another woman. She told me he would be fine, which was a nice way of saying, “Go now.” I gave my baby another kiss and watched as he confidently found his seat. He was a man of the world now.
Driving home, I gave myself a pep talk. I wanted my son to grow up strong, responsible and independent. This was the first necessary step.
But it’s hard to accept the irony of being a parent: you give all of your energy and attention to your children so you can teach them to leave you.
Later in the day, I waited at the corner for the bus to bring my son back to me and was relieved when it actually did. Walking home, we talked about what he ate for lunch, the names of his new friends and how much he loved his teacher. As he dumped out his backpack on the living room floor, I casually asked him if he loved her more than me. He answered, “No! I love you both.” I knew then that he’d be a good student. He gave the perfect answer.