The first day of school is hard for me. Jessie’s very first day of kindergarten, she was fine. Happy to line up and dance off to class with her new teacher, but poor Sammy Boy sobbed because he could not believe that they were taking his big sister away. Jessie’s always done well on the first day – she genuinely likes school, I think she likes everything about it. She’s academically oriented, and even if she’s a little nervous and unsure, she’s still happy about seeing all her friends.
But my Sam – oh, my Sammy. First days have never been his thing. The first day of kindergarten was horrific, and we skipped the first day altogether last year, and started him the day after everyone else. He doesn’t like new things, and new routines and new people, and it’s not just that he didn’t like them, he was terrified and freaked out. Not just uncomfortable, literally freaking out. Once he gets used to it, he loves school. He’s academically oriented too, he loves math, loves reading – he likes learning new things, and he’s, if anything, more comfortable with kids than his older sister is. It’s just the beginning that’s so hard for him.
Today, he was great. Beyond great, he was completely typical in his reaction. Butterflies in his stomach, but mostly just excited about seeing his buddies and meeting new friends.
I walked them both to class. We got there early, and I walked Jessie over to the fifth grade section, and left her with her friends. Then I brought Sam back to the first graders, and waited with him for his friends. Once his best buddy was there, he completely loosened up. I left him there and went back to check on Jessie – which was only partly about making sure that Jessie was good. She was, of course, but it also gave me the opportunity to walk away from Sam and make sure he was able to handle it. I met Jessie’s teacher, and kissed her goodbye and went back to check on my boy.
He was … completely fine. Happy, playing, it was completely anti-climatic. He gave me an extra hard hug, and that was that.
Walking away, I couldn’t help thinking about how far we’ve come. How much he’s grown, and what a major milestone it is – to be happy about going to school, excited and anticipatory, instead of mourning the time at home, and terrified of what’s going to happen. My baby has grown up, on a level that he hadn’t before, and I’m wistful and proud and relieved and only a tiny bit sad about the change. Not sad – because it was so hard for him, and I don’t want it to be hard. But there was an intensity to his attachment, and it’s been a part of our relationship for the past seven years. Outgrowing that is normal and natural and leads to such great things – but there’s a part of me that misses it. Just a little. The same way I miss toting Jessie around on my hip, and nursing Sammy to sleep at night. The way I miss singing baby Jessie to sleep, baking with little Sam and reading board books to Julie. The way I miss naptime, and having Julie wake up, all rosy and excited for the rest of the day.
So much of motherhood is being outgrown. Of being everything to a child, and gradually having the child outgrow that. Having your child’s world expand, to include not just new people but new experiences and new challenges. Sometimes it happens effortlessly, and sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world.
I’m feeling… outgrown. And proud and excited and happy for him, and just a tiny bit sad. Not just because my girl is in fifth grade, and wearing some killer boots, with beautiful hair and a smile like an angel, but also because my boy is a first grader. Confident and secure, and proud of himself and happy about who he is and where he’s going. Because the path was so much harder for him, because he went thru so much more to get here.