I have a picture sitting on my camera that I’m not sure I’m ready to download. It’s a picture, clearly hastily taken, of a nearly-three-year-old boy wearing a bright orange t-shirt and khaki shorts intended for a kid BabyN’s age. He’s grinning from ear to ear, quite likely because of the backpack straps you can see on his shoulders. Actually, they are closer to fitting over his arms. This camouflage backpack looks like it was made for a giant; the bottom of it hits the backs of his knees as he walks. You’d never know that this was the smallest backpack we could find. Over the top of one shoulder peeks a green dinosaur, his head sticking out of the giant’s backpack.
I’m not ready to peek at this picture yet because I’m hoping to stall feeling the reality of that picture. Even in this all-too-quiet house, I’m having trouble believing that it’s really true, that my little baby boy isn’t here, that he’s having the time of his life at school, without me.
The morning went about how I predicted, from his reluctance to eat breakfast to my nervous tummy to the mad rush at the last minute to his excitement to leave once he heard we were going to “school” to play with his “tee-chers.” That last one made the whole experience a little easier, knowing he was thrilled with the morning’s activity–well, that and his stubborn behavior. Unfortunately, I don’t think he knew exactly what was happening, though; he kept talking about cookies when he would mention his teachers. He expected to go hang out and color and eat cookies like he did at open house the other day. I hope he wasn’t disappointed when I left and he got to stay for a few hours, even if there weren’t any cookies.
I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing, prepared and competent. I had done a pretty nice job on his homework, if I do say so myself. We had all his school supplies, down to the extra pair of socks in his backpack, and everything was labeled with his name. He was the cute kid pushing his brother’s stroller down the hallway to his classrom, even without being able to see over the top of it. I was together, despite that last-minute mad rush to the car.
Yet I felt oddly unsatisfied when I turned away from his classroom that last time. He had run in eagerly, ignoring me altogether. I had to sneak up on him where he was sitting at the table playing with a Magnadoodle to grab one last hug. I don’t know what I wanted. Screaming hysterics that I was leaving him? Certainly not. But a “Bye, Mommy!” would have been nice. Still, I’m glad he was so happy to go play with the teachers and all his future friends.
Then as we left the door of the “school,” I felt the strangest sensation. It was a lump in my throat and wet eyes. I had to choke back the tears all of a sudden. I didn’t think I was affected by the whole event at all until that moment. That’s when it hit me that the tiny baby that I gave birth to just yesterday (surely it was just yesterday) is at school. Without me. And happy about it.
And tomorrow it will be Nathan. At college. I’m not ready for this after all.