Last night, after a day filled with all the activities a child can pack into the last day of summer vacation, I sat across the kitchen counter from my five year old son and just took him in. When he settled on his stool and turned his sweaty red cheeks in my direction, I fell - as I always do - madly in love with him again.
"You know you're a kindergartner tomorrow, right?" I asked, reiterating what we've been talking to him about all summer. I asked more as a means of preparing myself for this reality than actually calming the nerves of this gorgeous boy who needs no more encouragement from us to be ready for this leap. He smiled, gave me the most perfect "my mom taught me this" eye roll and said "Yep."
"Yep," as in "I know I'm going to be a kindergartner and I don't know why you feel it necessary to keep telling me that, and furthermore, why do you look like you're going to cry every time you say it? Can't you see that's just madness, silly woman?"
He's so ready for this phase of his life. No more holding him completely back. No more allowing my unnecessary fear to shadow his growth. Today, I will walk my son to the corner, ask for a kiss and be happy to settle for a hug, and put him on a bus that will take him to his first day of kindergarten. Then, as the bus starts to pull away, I'll dash to the mini, race to the school, and be there to watch him disembark, find his teacher (who is also experiencing her first day as a kindergarten teacher), then his best little buddy (bets on who he searches out first!), and then settle in.
I've little doubt he'll settle in. He's no stranger to this school environment. Two years of preschool and an older brother who's guided the halls for him in the past quite nearly sets the stage for my youngest to be named student body president of the place by week's end. I'd so not put it past him! This boy is a showman. A pure entertainer. A master storyteller. I quite honestly wish I knew where he got these traits from, for if I could, I'd buy all of them and figure out how to make them work for me.
So while, truly, I'm not worried about how he'll do, I do hope that his father and I have given him all he needs to be ready for the world. I know we're not done teaching him, but the scope of his learning is now broader, and while I'm happy for that, sometimes the idea of releasing our role completely is hard. I want to think this will be a heartbreaking day for all of us, but honestly, I believe my husband and I will be the only ones feeling our hearts tighten as this boy who's charmed us from moment one turns away from us and begins this amazing new adventure.
He won't realize it, but I bet he'll find it freeing. Despite play dates and preschool and weekends with grandma, this little boy has been my constant companion for five years. As I free him, I'm not so sure I'll feel the same way (perhaps by Friday, though, when the reality sets in and I think of all that I can do now!).
The world has some pretty wonderful qualities. I hope we've shown him many of them. I know he's shown me many I'd forgotten, even in the midst of whatever frustration a child can bring about. And they can. I know. But now I'm trusting him with someone else, for longer stretches and with varying influences. I wish his teacher as much luck and patience as I wish all the kids in her charge these next 180 days.
During our conversation last night, we talked about how my son will ride the bus to and from school, where he'll stash his backpack and what he'll be doing during the entire day away from home. We bantered about the fun things he'll be doing and the amazing things he'll be learning. How he'll make new friends, have to always remember to listen to his teacher, and oh, yes, enjoy those three daily recesses. Every topic I brought up, he'd grow brighter and more excited. Eager. Ready. And, I think, reassuring. Truly, these conversations we've been having are more for me, I think, as I let yet another finger slip on the ever loosening grasp I have on this beautiful boy. He knows it, too.
He's so ready.
Me? I probably am, too, but I'm willing to admit I'd selfishly like to hold onto that last slipping finger of his childhood a little bit longer. Ultimately, I have to let go completely so my hands are free to applaud him. He's a showman, afterall, and I anticipate a wealth of rewards and successes he'll wish to share.