A letter to my firstborn on the first day of kindergarten
August 23, 2016
You made me a mama. You were, in fact, my first real introduction into the real world, the first person who demanded more of me than I asked of myself. You created in me an almost insatiable need for coffee, opening up chasm of love so fierce and exhaustion so deep that I still find it shocking and incomprehensible at times. Especially on those late nights when I stand in your room after bedtime, stroking sweaty blonde hairs away from your little head, marveling that sleep can can contain you – does contain you, night after night.
When you are awake, I am “on.” There is no off button for your joie de vivre.
Not that I want one, exactly, but I do marvel that you and I, the consummate extrovert and the perpetually solitude-seeking introvert, were cut from the same genetic cloth.
You have challenged me and refined me in a way that I find painful, at times breathtakingly so, and yet I am filled with gratitude for you. You are a gift, and life with you is an adventure.
Yesterday when I thought I was leaving you at school for your first full day in a big boy classroom, I was a fragile mess of tears ready to fall. Joke was on me though, because we got all dressed up and schlepped in for a 40 minute orientation and then early dismissal.
This morning, dress rehearsal firmly in the rearview mirror, you proceeded to lose my car keys and so, peeled out of the driveway in daddy’s car, 10 minutes late and nary a maternal tear shed.
Which is so typical for you.
You are, after all, the child who decided to make an impressive public display only 37 weeks into pregnancy. All the months of Bradley classes and books and calming scented candles fell by the wayside as you came screaming into the world after 19 hours of hard labor. Stunned, we looked at each other later in the recovery room and I realized you were not a child who could be scripted, that you would march to your own beat.
I love that about you.
And it’s also one of the hardest things about being your mom. Your passion and your energy drains me, and in that emptiness I have the opportunity day in and day out to beg God to fill in the empty spaces. He knew how much we would need each another.
You really wanted to bring leftovers in your lunchbox today, not a sandwich, so you could have a hot lunch “like daddy.” I think you would have carried a briefcase with a smartphone and a laptop in it, had I let you. Yesterday when you surveyed your classroom, stuffed to the brim with eager 5 and 6 year old faces, and you were nervous. But when you saw that your little chair had a seat-back pocket upholstered in a dinosaur-print fabric while most of the other diminutive chairs were decked in floral print, you were satisfied.
I stood in the back of the classroom and watched your teacher’s orientation slideshow with one eye, watching you with the other. You were unsure of your surroundings but you obediently dug into your pencil case for a crayon and started coloring the sheet she’d passed out. Periodically you twisted around in your tiny seat to scan the room, locking eyes with me in the back only for a second, no smile betraying that you’d seen your touchstone. But I know you did see me, and I could tell by the resolute straightening of your little shoulders as you swiveled back around that you were satisfied.
I hope that today is easy for you. I hope you don’t turn around to see if I’m still standing in the back of the room, but that if you do, you remember that your favorite cousin is in the room down the hall, that your best friend is waiting for you at home to share afternoon snack, that the little rows of desks filling your classroom are filled with friends you’ve known for years.
I promise, it will get easier for you to be there. What I suspect will not get easier, however, is the part where I leave you, urging you to step into a future that feels like it’s accelerating, smiling and waving encouragement as my heart breaks a little bit with the effort.
At the most fundamental level, I guess this is what motherhood is all about: pouring love in and then releasing, little by little, and standing back as shaky little legs grow stronger and more confident, moving further away with every step.
I didn’t want to ugly cry while writing this. So I’m sitting in a public coffee shop and propriety is mostly preventing that. But on the inside oh, my sweet boy, my heart is a little bit broken. Because today began the first chapter in a new life apart from our shared life together. Never again will we have our little domestic bubble of alltogetherallthetime. And there is relief in that to be sure, but there is a deep grieving too, and a profound gratitude that for a little while, God chose me to be your everything, and that He chooses me still to step back and help you launch.
I pray that the foundation we laid will have fashioned a worthy platform. And I know kindergarten is not Harvard, but I also know from the tearful stories at the grocery store this week and the knowing looks from the older moms in carpool line, that it’s not all that far off.
I am so proud of you my sweet boy. It is a privilege to be your mom.
And hey, nice work on losing those car keys this morning and diffusing mama’s waterworks so you could make a clean escape. You know me well.