Today began as any other ordinary day would. I hadn’t had a hair cut in over 6 months, so I was already dreading the “getting dressed” part of my day. I checked my clock and realized that I would have to wake my children up soon. And then it hit me. People mostly use that phrase to describe an epiphany or grand new idea, but I felt as if I had been literally hit. Plowed. Blindsided. Today would be Elijah’s first day of school. I’d walk him into this brand new world, and he would let go of my hand to take someone else’s. We had talked last night, his little nose inches away from mine as he brushed hair out of my face so it wouldn’t tickle his own. “You start school tomorrow!” I whispered. “How do you feel?” He dropped his big blue eyes and squished his lips together. “Are you scared?”
When he raised his eyebrows and answered me, my heart broke. “I’m BEWY scayurred.”
My heart broke because his wonderful teachers will help him annunciate, and I love when he curls under my chin and says, “I juss wubs ew.” (I just love you.) I love when I tell him to pick up his toys and he says “I tan’t wight now be-tause I’m bissy pwaying wivs my shawks!” (I can’t right now because I’m busy playing with my sharks.)
My heart broke because his teachers will teach him to be independent, but I still long for a lifetime of “Tan you help me, pwease?” and letting him take my hand and lead me into his world of cars and construction toys that won’t all fit in a box or under a tunnel he made. In gaining more independence will I lose some invitation into his beautiful imaginary world? Will he sit at the table instead of in my lap for his morning milk because that’s what the big boys do?
But mostly my heart broke because I am also very scared. I am thinking about the time when Emalee at only 4 asked me a question about sex because a second grader on her bus was telling everyone that boys could lie on top of girls and have babies. I am thinking about the times I’ve journeyed a middle school hall and immediately honed in on a child that walked alone, head down, shoulders slumped with the weight of nothing because nothing was the norm for him, but emptiness is so heavy. I am thinking about watching the footage from the Sandy Hook shooting in frozen terror for those innocent babies and my own daughter’s safety in an early childhood school.
When I picked Elijah up today, his eyes grew wide as he proclaimed, “That was FUN!” My heart grew a couple sizes, because I realized that what I was really afraid of was whether or not I had been good enough up until this point in his life. I was afraid that I hadn’t taught him the skills he needed to make good choices and to live without me. I was afraid that I hadn’t given him enough opportunities to learn social skills or problem solve with his peers. But as he curled under his blanket surrounded by his “shawks” and puppies and racecars, his eyes at half mast, and his precious words hardly audible, I felt just enough as he said in barely a whisper, “Thank you that I tan go to stool, Mommy.”