Today was the 7th day of school, and the first time this year I have cried at drop off. Don’t get me wrong, I feel lots of emotions on the first day, but it’s not an overwhelming sense of sadness. Our summers are not like we just spend a bunch of time together. I work full-time, so I am always dropping him off somewhere year round. The first day of school is new and exciting and we are both ready for all of the new adventures he will have, so I just focus on that. There’s no sadness.
But today was a weird day for me. We got to school a little bit early and L1 was so excited. He jumped out of the car, saw his friends on the playground, and said “ yay, we’re finally here early!“ I reminded him that we didn’t have a ton of time on the playground, because I’m not the mom who can get anywhere early. He looked at me frowned a little bit and then turned around and took off. He sprinted all the way inside narrowly avoiding getting hit by the closing door. He dropped his backpack off and by the time I had finally logged him in on the iPad he was already running back out the door to the playground. And just like that he was gone. No goodbye mom, no wave, no see you later and certainly no hug. He was just off to start his day. I walked out behind him and watched him for a moment as I walked to my car. I parked in a place where I am able to see what he’s doing on the playground, though I usually don’t pay much attention as I am always behind schedule. Today I had a moment to take it in.
He ran until he got to a new piece of playground equipment. I know this is his favorite because all year (okay, the past 7 days) it is all I have seen him on. It’s just this tall crazy shaped structure with several branches. It doesn’t look that fun. Kids just sit there perched like birds, so I don’t understand the appeal. Today it was loaded with kids, and they all appear to be older, likely 4th and 5th graders. He stood there for a moment watching them. I remembered quickly all the things he learned last year as a kindergartner, and how many of those came from the older kids. Like the F word. Not only that it was a bad word, but he also knew there was a silent C in there. Clearly the result of some…ugh… older kid. I wanted to go tell him to play somewhere else, preferable with other 1st graders, but I didn’t. He just stood there, for maybe 45 seconds. I wondered what was going on in his mind. Why wasn’t he climbing up there? Was he scared to join them? Was one of them mean to him? Was it just too full and I am a crazy mom? Then he turns and starts galloping over to the basketball courts. There were a group of kids who appear to be more his age playing basketball. They turned as he approached as if to welcome him, and someone tossed him the ball. Good choice buddy! I preferred that age group, but he made that decision all on his own. By this point I have been creepily watching for like 4 Minutes and I realize I am starting to tear up. But why?! He is SO happy and having SO much fun. I left. 4 Minutes of watching kids on the playground is like 3.5 Minutes too many.
On my way to work I started to think about it more. I have had almost 7 years of him “growing up,” and I am still not ready. Watching him run around by himself to different groups of friends made me realize how independent he is. There was a time not that long ago that he didn’t know a single person that I didn’t. I could control everything. Now, and what feels like overnight, he has a ton of friends I don’t know. And parents say hi/bye to him at pickup and drop off. I don’t know these people, so at 6.5 years old he’s already creating his social circle. And all I can do is sit back and watch.
I also feel like yesterday I was able to fix all his life problems by kissing the boo boo and putting a bandaid on the non-visable injury. There was nothing mommy couldn’t fix or make better. Now he is off navigating the world, assessing his own risk, trying to make a place for himself, and I can’t do anything to help him. When he feels left out, I can’t always be there to play with him. When he falls and scrapes his knee, I can’t always clean it up and put a bandaid on it and hold him until it feels better. When someone hurts his feelings, I can’t always help him navigate those emotions in a healthy and calm way until he finally feels better. He has to figure that all out on his own, and i am still not ready to give up that control.
It’s really inspiring to watch. He hasn’t yet realized what this world is capable of. He doesn’t know that there will be friends who move away, sports teams that he may not make, tests that he won’t excel at heartbreak, loss, sadness, and other possibly more awful things. His biggest problems are still so small and insignificant in the big picture, while they feel earth shattering to him. But he has so much joy, and this is something that seems to get fewer and further between as you get older. Every Monday he is excited to go back to school and see his friends. Tuesdays he is excited for taco Tuesday at home. Every Thursday he is excited for EEE. Every Friday he is excited for the weekend and Saturday he is excited for adventures and possibly going to see Papa. He finds joy in things that I overlook on a daily basis because I have seen them a thousand times or experienced something better.
Having a child sometimes puts you in your place when you least expect it. Nothing happened today that was super out of the ordinary, yet I was brought to tears over how amazing he is and how fast he is growing up. The days are long and the years are short. Another quote that is annoyingly accurate.
❤ MS Andrea Jackson