I was at the park the other day, and I heard a mom saying how she couldn’t wait until her kids went back to school. “Less than a month now!” she said, not even trying to hide her excitement. I smiled at her, but inside I was silently panicking.
LESS THAN ONE MONTH!!!
In less than one month, I’ll have to drop my first baby off at four-year-old preschool for the first time. I will watch his beautiful blond curls bounce off the top of his Captain America backpack as he walks into a classroom filled with kids I’ve never met and teachers I know nothing about. One measly little month until I have to say “good-bye” to my baby every morning, five days a week.
The thought of this literally causes me small panic attacks. My heart races, I feel like I can’t breathe, and then the tears come. So.Many. Tears! My husband usually looks at me with a mix of confusion and pity while he lets out a small laugh that basically means I-think-you’re-crazy-so-I’m-only-going-to-laugh-a-little-because-I’m-not-sure-what-you’ll-do-to-me.
My mind goes through a million scenarios. What if he hates it? Or gets scared? What happens if he gets teased by the class bullies? What about his first big disappointment? What if his teachers don’t like him? I think he is awesome, but not everyone will; and I can’t protect him from that.
As every mamma bear knows, any time your little cub hurts, you hurt a million times over, and knowing that in ONE MONTH he will be out in the world with all its cruelness makes me want to take him and run away to a cave somewhere so I can shield him from it forever. Realistically, though, I know he will be fine. Every kid hates school for a while. It is inevitable that he will get teased at some point. Dealing with disappointment is a necessary life lesson. So I know what you’re thinking, “If you know all of this, than what’s the problem?”
Here’s the deal. My hesitance about sending my son to prek has (almost) nothing to do with him. The real reason is all about me. At the risk of sounding like a jealous middle schooler, I’ll tell you why.
Up until this point, I have been the center of his universe. Mommy was the best playmate, lunch date, cook, and nurse. I was the funniest comedian and the smartest human alive. I am the one he wanted to impress, the one he wanted to be around all the time. While I know in my head that this kind of attachment has to come to an end, in my heart, I’m not ready to give it up. The minute his little body walks into that big school, it marks the beginning of a new phase of life….one where Mommy no longer reigns supreme. And that right there simultaneously breaks my heart and scares the daylights out of me.
I LOVE being a mom. Let me clarify….I love being a mom to little babies. I know nothing about being a mom to bigger kids who have their own friends and heartaches and, well, their own lives. I love having my kids home with me and being adored by them. I am not ready to “share” my firstborn with the world. To have his head filled with other opinions and attitudes. To have him want to be elsewhere and think other families are “cooler” than ours. I don’t want him to confide in others and make fun memories that don’t include me. When I ask him at bedtime what the best part of his day was, I want him to always say, “just being with you, mommy” like he does every night now. I want him to still be mine.
(Am I reminding you of that middle schooler, yet?)
But I know it is his time to move on. He is ready. The hard part of my job starts now….making sure he is secure and prepared enough to leave my nest and fly.
On my bad days, I look at his baby pictures and cry, wondering how four years went by so quickly. But on my good days, I know that we’ll be fine, and I actually allow myself to get a little excited for what’s to come. School plays where I will be the proud, teary-eyed mom in the front row, sporting events, watching him find his best friend, getting his first “A,” hearing him talk excitedly about new things he’s learning. And on those days I know that we will find a new path that will be just as special as the one we are leaving behind. Different, yes. But worse, I don’t think so.
For the next month, I will put on a brave face and use my “happy mommy” voice every time we talk about school. I vow not to lose it when I drop him off on his first day (OK, I will definitely lose it, but I’ll wait until he can’t see me!) I will enjoy his last few weeks here…play with him a little more, let him stay in jammies a little longer, soak up all of our precious moments here in our own little world. And then, come September, I will let him go, and we will learn and grow together.