I hate the first day of school for my kids. I can’t be the only one, can I? I know I am supposed to be high-fiving the other moms at the bus stop, skipping all the way back home, throwing open the doors and yelling, “FREEDOM!”
But all I feel today is sad.
It seemed Vincenzo was so grown up when he started preschool. I had never left him with anyone other than family members before, and there I was leaving him at a school with a bunch of strangers for two whole hours twice a week. Then came kindergarten, in a public school, and he rode the bus, and that felt waaayy too grown up. Of course, that didn’t compare to how grown up he seemed when he started first grade—all day for the first time, and no more lunches at home or 12:00 play dates. This was the big leagues.
Now he’s in second grade and it feels like he’s in the squishy middle of elementary school and he’s going to slip right out on the other side in a matter of minutes and be heading off to college.
How many times can I watch my baby grow an entire year over night?
And even though I still have little ones at home—one little enough to still be called a baby—today I can’t stop thinking about the day I will send that baby off on the bus with his brothers, and then I will go home to…nothing. I know it’s silly to be worrying about that today, but I have this habit of trying to get all the worry out of my system early so then I can just be cool when the big catastrophe hits. My therapist has assured me that none of the pre-worrying I do will save me an ounce in the future so I might as well just turn that worry switch off and enjoy the moment. I keep forgetting to ask her where the switch is.
(Rocco would make a great therapist, no?)
When I stop to think about it, though, when I really stop to think about it, I realize that this growing up thing is a good thing. I had a baby once who never grew up once. His name was Angelo. Watching a baby grow up, as hard as it is, is not nearly so hard as having a baby who never will.
So here’s what I told myself as I sat in a quiet house this afternoon: if I don’t put Vincenzo on the bus, he won’t go to school. If he doesn’t go to school, he will go through the rest of his life with a first grade education. If he goes through life with a first grade education, he will most likely not get a good job or a wife, he will continue to think that $800 is a lot of money to pay for a house, and he will never realize that nobody thinks it’s cute when he talks in a baby voice. If Vincenzo does not get on that bus he will not spend a year playing superheroes at recess, learning double digit math, finding his role in a community, learning to work with people he might not like, bonding with his friends, being pushed academically and socially and emotionally, and earning the sense of accomplishment that comes with the last bus ride each year in June.
If he does not get on that bus he will not learn just how marvelous, mysterious, limitless, wondrous, and sometimes frustrating that world is.
All he needs to do to discover it is to hop on that bus.