Monday, August 20, 2012

Learning to Let Them Go.

Last night before bed, Luca picked her outfit for the first day of kindergarten: a brown dress with pink polka dots and her new brown shoes. Rohan asked me to get his orange 'buttons' shirt, and I selected some new khaki shorts to go with it. I packed Luca's lunch, cutting her turkey sandwich ino a star and a letter 'L' and including a strawberry cupcake she chose at the grocery store. I scrawled 'Rohan K' on the inside of an old t-shirt and pair of shorts with a Sharpie and tied them into a bag with his name on the outside. Extra clothes for school, in case he has an accident. Luca's bag was packed with her purple pencil case and a towel for after-lunch rest time. Everything was ready to go.

We took a bath together, the three of us, washing the manes and tails of every My Little Pony in the house and also washing Luca and Rohan's new hairstyles. Hers: bangs. His: short and neat.

Before bed, Luca told me she was worried about kindergarten because even though she can count, "Sometimes I skip a number." I assured her it was ok, and that lots of kids skip numbers and she was goign to school so she could learn how to remember ALL the numbers when she counts. That seemed to satisfy her, and before she rolled over to close her eyes she smiled at me and told me she was excited to start school.

This morning both kids were still sleeping when I got out of bed, so I went and woke them by rubbing their back and telling them it was time for school. Luca jumped out of bed, excited to put on her pretty dress and take her new backpack to class. Mo was a little slower going, telling me several times that he didn't want to go to preschool. I got them downstairs, dressed, and sitting in front of Bubble Guppies so I could finish getting everything ready to go.

The morning was punctuated with Rohan's sadface, as he told me several times he didn't want to go to preschool. I didn't know what to say to him other than to fill him with platitudes about how preschool is super fun and he's going to make a lot of new friends and learn new things. It didn't work. He was curled on the recliner in a ball telling me he didn't want to go. Even Luca chimed in, telling him how she was worried about preschool but it ended up being so fun and she made lots of friends. He still wasn't convinced entirely.

We parked down the street from the elementary school, following a crowd of other parents as they led kids large and small to the playground to line up for their first day. Each of my hands held a tiny hand of one of my children, and if you think for a second I didn't feel the power of that moment you must never have met me.

We got to school a few minutes before the first bell, found the spot where Luca's class lines up in the mornings, and waited. I could tell Luca was nervous, and Rohan could too which made him nervous which in turn made ME nervous and on the verge of tears. We stood together in a cluster eyeing the other kids and their parents. I was trying to guess which kids would be the nicest and hoping my kid would be seated next to them, and Luca was probably admiring all the Hello Kitty backpacks jealously. Her teacher made her rounds, checking to be sure all the right kids were in her line and she knew how they were all to get home every day that week and I tried to look friendly by half-smiling at the other parents while behind my sunglasses my eyes nervously scanned the group of new kids and parents.

I leaned in close to her, feeling very sentimental as every ounce of mama love burned in my throat, and whispered into her cheek, "Luca, I'm so very very proud of you and school is going to be amaz--" and she cut me off. "Mom," she said impatiently, "your breath stinks like coffee." Sentimental moment over.

I wasn't sure how Luca would do when the time came to walk into the school with her class. After two years of preschool this is sort of old hat to her, but it was a different school and this is a new teacher and new classmates and new rules and a new schedule. Leading up to the first week, she was really excited, so we went with that and played up the excitement in the hopes it would pay off the first day. And while she was a bit nervous, clinging to my hand most of the morning, when the time came to kiss her good-bye she was ready to go.

We stood there, Mo and I, watching her walk away from us and into big kid school. She turned several times and waved, blowing kisses as we enthusiastically waved and blew kisses back. I snapped pictures through tears I'd held in until that moment, and as she passed through the doors and disappeared down the hall to her first day of Kindergarten, I turned with Rohan, took 4 steps across the basketball court, and was stopped cold by a wave of heavy tears. Rohan was looking at me sadly, so I scooped him into my arms as I cried, and he burrowed his head under my chin, his right cheek flat against my collarbone and his left arm stretched wide to pull me into a hug.

That moment? I will never forget it. And when I looked down into my son's big blue eyes, he was crying too. We stood there for a moment, holding each other together, then he walked beside me to the car holding my hand the whole way there.

The ride to preschool for Rohan's first day was quiet. My right arm was stretched into the back seat, and he held my right hand in both of his for the whole drive. We got there much too fast and before I knew it I was unbuckling Rohan's carseat and pulling his backpack out to rest it on his shoulders. Thankfully, his hesitation and nerves had calmed some and he didn't try to change my mind about leaving him in preschool that day. Because, I swear, if he'd asked me at that moment to let him stay home one more day I would have burrowed him to me and whisked him home so we could snuggle on the couch together for a whole day.

There wasn't much time for long sentimental good-byes once we got to preschool. Most of the kids were there already and the class was just sitting down for circle time. One of the high schoolers that works in the class came right over and greeted Rohan, taking his hand and leading him to his space on the rug. And suddenly, I had two kids in school. Just like that. Babies, done. Kids, here.

I knew I should leave, but I couldn't. I needed one more hug and kiss from my son. Needed to sniff his skin and feel the softness of his blonde hair and remind him to be good and kind and listen well. So I waited patiently for circle time to end and the kids to go wash their hands and I grabbed him and held him close to me for a kiss. And then, I watched him walk away and join the other kids at the little circular table for snacks.

I walked out alone, sat in my car, and let the tears come. I was crying from pride that a new phase of their lives is starting, and in equal measure from sadness that the last chapter is ending. No longer can I even pretend they are my babies. They are big kids now, with classmates and teachers and lunch bags and friends. They bring home pictures and classwork with their names scrawled across the top. They ask questions such as, "Mama, how does a car turn all the wheels the same at once?" (him) and, "Are whales mammals? Because I know that dolphins are and whales feed their babies milk too."
Learning to let them go and let them grow up is hard for me. I absolutely adore the people they are becoming. I beam at the praise from their teachers. I smile when I hear about new friends and eating in a cafeteria and recess and music class and share day. My throat tightens and my heart feels like it will burst as I witness them growing minute by minute into the little adults they will someday become.

This will be a big year. I'm trusting my kids to teachers and other families and their kids. I'm letting my kids go and grow. And I cannot wait to look back at this time in our lives and remember it sweetness.

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