I actually have tears streaming down my face right now as I write about it.
Yesterday, on the first day of school, they had parents drop their kids off in the classroom and help them get situated. I handled that with poise–at least until I hopped in the car and started blubbering.
But today, they asked us not to take our kids directly to the classroom. They wanted to avoid the chaos of a thousand kids and all of their parents in the school– and wanted kids to learn how to get to their classrooms on their own–which meant that I had to pull up in front of the school and drop off my baby. Then I had to pull away and trust that Joey could find his own way into the school and find his class in the cafeteria. He was on his own.
This was a huge step. For him and for me. I was terrified. What if he got lost? Or what if some big fifth grader picked on him? Or what if he couldn’t find his way? And he was a little nervous, too. The whole way there, we rehearsed what he needed to do: step out of the car, walk into the building, head straight ahead to the cafeteria and find his teacher next to the green pot with the caterpillar on it. If he got lost, he had to find either a teacher or one of the fifth graders wearing an orange vest– honorary “safety patrol” members whose job it was to help kids figure it out.
Then, after a quick prayer, he was off. I pulled up to the school and a safety patrol kid opened his door. Joey climbed out. I gulped down a tear as he looked at me with big, terrified eyes. Then he froze. He literally stood on the sidewalk looking at me, then looking at the school, then back at me. And then I saw a tear stream down his face.
My gut instinct? To stop my car right there and get out and help him. To hold his hand and show him the way. But I couldn’t. Doing that would only show him that I didn’t have confidence in him– that I didn’t trust him to stand on his own two feet. So I put on a smile when I was sobbing inside and waved. I yelled: “You got this, buddy! You know what to do!” and pulled my car into drive.
As I pulled away, crying, I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw him. My baby had hoisted his backpack over his shoulders and turned towards the school– and he was confidently walking towards the cafeteria.
And while I’m a mess right now– feeling all weepy because my baby is away at Kindergarten and I’m not there holding his hand– I’m also really proud of him. He’s there– on his own, learning, growing, playing– and I know without a doubt that he is ready. He can do this. He can stand on his own two feet.