“I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not…damnit!” I silently berated myself as I tried not to let on that there was a sobfest about to happen in the front seat while you played some weird monster matching game on your tablet in the back.
I must have sniffled because your gaze was abruptly drawn away from monster matches, and I caught you smiling understandingly at the teary gleam in my eyes through the rearview mirror (you and I seem to always understand each other).
It was just a normal Thursday morning. We were on our way to your last day of first grade. I was singing along with the radio. Normal Thursday-on-the-way-to-school stuff. I wasn’t even singing that Sarah McLaughlin pet commercial song, so really, no reason to cry.
But with me, there’s ALWAYS a reason to cry.
The song- that damn song. It was the song that came on the radio the morning I found out, after being told I might never be a mom, that I was pregnant.
It was the first song that I heard after learning that you, in all your determination, had actually happened.
It was the song I sang to my belly every day (I sang a little bit more determinedly on the 2 days we almost lost you).
It was the song that I whispered to you at least once a day as I swayed and rocked and watched your sleepy baby eyes slowly drift off to dreamland.
I’ve hummed it to you to calm countless anxiety episodes, and to boost your confidence when you just couldn’t walk through the doors on your first day of kindergarten.
And now, as the universe and some heartless DJ who didn’t care about the fate of my eyeliner would have it, it was streaming through my car speakers right then, at that moment.
The only difference was, you didn’t need me to sing it this time.
Alas, because you “get” me, you knew damn well that I needed to sing it, and that I needed you to ask for a few extra hugs at drop-off, and you gladly obliged.
And as you tapped me on the back and held out your arms one last time, it hit me. My little kid, who was so afraid to even dip a toe into the world, had jumped into the deep end.
My little kid who outright refused to do any sort of after-school activity, was afraid of summer camp, and was mortified that I would even have the audacity to SUGGEST attending a meeting of the Junior Lego Builders club at the library- he wasn’t the kid I dropped off today.
Today I dropped off my big kid.
My confident martial arts enthusiast who showed me not once, but twice during breakfast this morning, how he stood tall and sat “like a black belt” for his beloved Joshu during his last lesson.
My self-assured son- the once-soggy, clingy mess who I had gently begged to walk through the front door of the school- who now bounces out of the car in the drop-off line, sometimes forgets to even wave goodbye, and strolls up the steps chatting with whichever friend he meets along his way.
My intuitive, empathetic human who was once afraid to approach anyone new, but can now sense a stranger in need of compassion 20 miles away, and sets out to give it to them.
You know, my father warned me not to blink when you were a baby, and, as usual, he was right.
I had a bubbly baby; then I blinked and found a slightly timid toddler standing in front of me. I blinked one more time and was suddenly faced with a child who was so afraid to even walk into school that I had seriously explored homeschooling.
And then I blinked back my tears this morning and saw someone completely new. A big kid. A smiley, happy-go-lucky, confident kid.
The obstacles you’ve overcome, the fears you’ve battled, and the self-doubt that has finally melted off of you this past year, have left you so much taller, stronger and lighter in so many ways.
I’m so proud of the self-confident little person that you’ve blossomed into, in such a short time, right before my eyes. I’m so honored that you trusted me to help you navigate the most uncertain parts of your journey through the labyrinth that is anxiety (luckily for you, I’ve been navigating the labyrinth for 33 years- I could be a tour guide). And I’m so blessed that, even though you don’t need me to, you still ask me to hold you in my arms, sing to you, and watch you slowly close your big kid eyes and drift off to dreamland each night.
So, enjoy your last day as a first grader, my big kid. The world has so much waiting for you; I look forward to watching you continue to reach out and grab all of it.
Oh, one more thing (you know there’s always one more thing with me)- as you explore with your newfound confidence, just remember that if this new big kid-ness of yours ever gets shaky, I’ll be here to understand you, and to softly sing it back into place.