Growing UpPosted: August 16, 2012
The night before my son started Kindergarten, he showered, wiggled into his PJs, brushed his teeth, kissed his daddy and brother goodnight, and hiked up the stairs to his bedroom, holding my hand in his. He picked out the movie, G-Force, the same movie he has watched at bedtime for the past week. Before I started the movie, we climbed into his bed, and I read him a story called Off to Kindergarten by Tony Johnston. We kissed and hugged and said “I love you. Goodnight.” And he and I both slept well, as if it were any other night.
In the morning, he woke on his own, wide-eyed and ready for the day at 6:30 am, a half of an hour before his scheduled morning wake-up. We snuggled in my bed for a bit with cartoons on the TV. We ate breakfast at the table together, talking about what we thought his first day of school might bring him. He was mostly quiet, a sure sign of his nervousness, and I gave him a silent hug and pat of his head. We got ourselves dressed, and he watched The Mr. Men Show while he brushed his teeth and I made his hair “spiky,” just the way he wanted it. Throughout the morning, he frequently asked me, “Mommy, what time is it? Do we need to leave? I don’t want to be late!” And I consistently replied, “We’re doing just fine. We’ll be there on time.”
After compliantly posing with his brand new backpack and lunchbox for a few pictures for mom’s sake, we loaded ourselves in the car and headed to school. When we arrived, I asked him, “Would you like to go in on your own or would you like me to come in?” He said, “I want you to come in today.” So I did. On the way, we passed many moms with plenty of tears welling in their eyes or streaming down their faces. I braced myself for the same. I knew it was going to come. We found his class sitting in the gym in a line, waiting for the morning assembly to start. My son was greeted by his teacher, and he took his place on the floor. I found a spot against a nearby wall and stood, taking a few pictures. Taking it all in. So many children, so many parents, many of them with tears of joy, pride, sadness. I waited for mine to come. As the teachers introduced themselves, I watched my son sit still and quiet, his backpack still strapped to him, taking up nearly the same amount of height from the floor as he small frame. I took a few more pictures and watched him stand as the rest of the students did in a jumbled unison for “The Pledge of Allegiance,” placing his little hand over his big heart and saying the words he had learned in preschool. My heart was filled with joy and pride and disbelief at how fast this day had come. When it was time for parents to leave, I called his name, and I met his big blue eyes with a smile and one last wave goodbye. As I walked out the door, I waited expectantly for the emotions to overtake me… And nothing came. Nothing but a smile and thoughts of “I hope he has a good day. I hope he does well. I hope he has fun.”
No one was more shocked than I was that I didn’t cry on this day. Not the night before, not the morning of, not even during any of the hundred times that I thought about him, wondering what he was doing while I waited for 3:30 to come, so that I could bring him home again.
And for the past two days, I’ve wondered, why didn’t I cry? I was sad to see him go, wasn’t I? And then something occurred to me. I can’t remember ever crying about any of my son’s firsts. Not when he was born, not when he said “mama” or walked for the first time, not on his first, or second, or third, or fourth, or fifth birthdays. I did shed a couple tears during his preschool graduation, but I was also having a bit of post-partum depression and any number of things was making me cry then.
Why am I not sad to see my little boy grow up? He is my first born, my love, and a huge part of what my life has become. I see and hear about moms crying at all these milestones, all these moments of realizing that their baby has just gotten a little bit bigger, a little bit closer to being big enough to be on his own.
So where are my tears?
I’ve thought back on this a lot during the past couple days, and I’ve gone from a place of thinking that there was something wrong with me to a place of acceptance. Which is the place I think I’ve been since the day he was born. I’ve loved and cherished every stage that he’s been through: seeing him smile at me for the first time, hearing him coo, watching him make his first friends, or learning to throw a ball, or hearing him read to me words that I didn’t know he knew. With every new step he takes towards the independent young man that he is so quickly becoming, I’ve realized that I’ve always focused so much on what he is turning into, that I’ve never really looked back what what he isn’t anymore. Sure, I look at his baby pictures and say “Oh! I remember when he was that small. He was so cute!” or “I remember that moment.” or “I loved that chubby little smile, and that squeaky little voice.” But I’ve never really wanted the time to go backwards. Without realizing it, I’ve just been marching forward to his future right along side him, without looking back.
And I think either way, it’s okay. It’s okay for the moms who wish their little boy or girl was that fresh-smelling, soft-skinned newborn again, just to be able to hold them and hear them coo and smile so innocently again one more time. But I think it’s also okay that I never really have wanted him to be at any stage other than the one he has been presently in. I can look back on the memories, and look forward to the future, but I’m mostly right with him in the present. I’ve realized that I’m not void of emotion (yes, that question really came to my mind!), I’m just happy and proud to watch my son grow up.
And like they all do, he’s growing up quicker than I can blink.