Today was a big day: your first day of Kindergarten, Grant.
It’s only half day, and you are in the afternoon program, so just after lunch, I drove you up to the school and waited with all the other parents and kids for your teachers to open those doors. You were quiet, holding my handing, and waiting. You can be patient, and sometimes when you’re quiet I wonder what you are thinking. If you are anything like your mama, and you are, I know that your brain is churning away up there, taking it all in, missing nothing. And that just because you’re quiet doesn’t mean you are anxious, or nervous, or upset, or mad, or anything. It just means you are quiet.
There has been so much waiting that when it happened, it almost happened too fast. Beginning in the spring when you came up to school with me to hand in our registration papers, we’ve been talking about this next step. Then it was on to a Kick-Off in May, and of course all summer long there has been prep talk about what this Fall will look like. Daddy came with us last week to meet your teacher and see the classroom, and we filled our “last weekend of summer” with all the things. Last night we set out your clothes and zipped up your new backpack. Today, even, was full of waiting, first having to spend a normal morning at home with your brother and sister before stepping out into this next thing.
So there has been a lot of build up, a lot of waiting, and I thought we were ready. And we are. You are. So, so ready. But when those doors opened, and the teachers stood there welcoming you in, it happened so fast. Some kids were crying, others high-fiving, and I think we were somewhere in the middle. Still quiet, holding my hand and watching. It’s the little details, sometimes, that derail me, and today it was the logistics of saying goodbye. I thought of leaving Renee and Griffin parked on that patch of grass for a moment so I could walk you over and say my goodbye, but Griffin started crying when I walked a few feet away. Plan B meant that I had to wrestle the stroller through the grass until we made it back to the sidewalk, and though a bit cumbersome we all walked you to the door together. I’m always counting heads in a crowd, and this was no different, so one-two-three. And then we were there, at the door. Your teacher was there and the little boy in front of you was sad, and then it was your turn. I kissed you, squeezed your hand and you were off. You followed the sad little boy through the doors and stood in line, waiting for the next instruction. And I wonder: do they know how special you are? Can they see what I see?
You were off, and Renee and Griffin and I were out of place, now, with nothing left to do but go home. I turned back a few times, to see if I could catch your eye, but there were too many kids, too many parents, and I know you are doing just fine.
Even with all the waiting we’ve done, I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted some more time. It happened so fast, and there you were in your new, big school. Renee and Griffin didn’t get to hug you goodbye. I’m pretty sure I said “I love you” but I can’t be certain. Did I get to say how proud I am of you, already, for doing nothing more than being you? I can’t help but think of the things I should have said, things I want you to hear. I can only hope that you’ve heard them, day in and day out, these things about love, and grace, and strength, and wisdom. Of kindness and smarts. These things are written on your heart, because God’s writes them through the ways that we love each other in this family. And you are coming home to this family, where we all will race outside to see you when that school bus drops you off.
You haven’t been a baby for a long time, and I don’t mourn that, not exactly. I loved you dearly as a baby, but it has been a glorious joy to watch you learn to walk, to talk, to ride bikes and read. To learn how to share and to become a big brother, once and then again. Sending you off today was just a reminder of it all: you are here to try new things, to step, and misstep and try again; you are here not to be my baby forever, but to grow.
And we’ve been ready for this. All of my conversations about this have been no-big-deal: it’s just half day, and only one day more a week than preschool was last year, so I thought I was ready, too. But as I pushed the stroller away from you towards the car, and held Renee’s hand through the parking lot, I had tears on my cheeks. Surprised by my own emotion, I think I needed to get out of my head for a moment, and let myself feel this: not sadness, not anxiety or worry, but to sit in the deep well of love, the tenderness I have for you, my first born.