Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Fine Art of Letting Go

This post appears as promised -- although much delayed. It is difficult for me to write, but I will do my best.
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This morning was Big D's first real day of kindergarten. By "real" I mean that I actually had to leave the room. Yesterday was the pictures and paperwork and the excitement of the new school clothes -- all for a two-hour session where there were as many parents as students.

But today... today was different.

Today I had to bring my beautiful boy to school and turn around and leave. It was clearly much more difficult for me than for him. He marched in with a hundred and fifty-three other kids armed with a smile and a Batman backpack. As I went to kiss his cheek at the kindergarten door, he squiggled away. "Not so fast!" I said, and I hugged him close. In he went and got to work without batting an eyelash. He strode up to the teacher right away to ask a question. His voice was strong. My right brain relaxed, assuring me He Will Be Okay.

I finished saying goodbye to the other parents I'd seen and made my way to the door. I was accompanied by my delighted two-year-old, whose secret dream of becoming an only child was seemingly coming true. She beamed and giggled at the thought that she didn't have to wait to get into the car or take a turn or share -- at least until 2 o'clock.

I buckled her in and started the car. As I was backing out of the parking lot, the feelings struck -- and the tears. There is nothing that feels so completely and utterly wrong as driving away from your child.

My memory of the drive home is a little hazy. I know I 'took the long way'. How long? Long enough for my youngest to ask where we were going. I was focused more on the cornflowers blooming on the side of the road and the corn tassels that particular shade of gold only they have. I sniffed and blinked and finally succumbed at a STOP sign.

I had worked so hard to prepare my boy -- I hadn't really prepared myself.

I wonder, sometimes, why I feel the way I do when my children pass a milestone. They are such a gift to me, and as full as our life is of joy at their growth, I know that every step will take them further from my protection. As proud as I am of him and his excitement at this first big step, as much as I count his teacher as a dear and trusted friend, and as long as I knew this day was coming, I was not prepared for the desolate emptiness of my heart at leaving him.

In his wisdom, my husband had decided to be home when I got there. The one person who would understand was the one person there to hug me until I had returned to myself. Always self-critical, I told him I didn't understand why I was being so emotional.

"It's natural," he told me, "you'll miss him." -- A simple explanation for a very complex feeling.

I will miss my baby.

When I picked him up this afternoon, and he regaled me with tales of songs and stories and the children in his new class, I had a faint glimmer of peace. His babyhood may be gone, but it will be fun to get to know the boy he is becoming.

Midwest Mom

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