Clothes laid out. Lunch packed. Forms completed and signed. I peek in on my little boy, peacefully sleeping in his own big bed. I crawl into my own bed, knowing that before the night is over he’ll be joining us. Thoughts swirl through my head. Tomorrow is his first day.
We wake up as usual, around 7 a.m., bodies snuggled close in a big bed. He nurses, and then he and daddy get up and go downstairs to eat breakfast. I linger, weary from early morning waking, wanting just a few moments to myself before facing the day — this big, first day.
I shower, dress, dry my hair, and realize the clock is further along than I hoped. I move downstairs. He is fed; I need to get him dressed and ready. I need to pack shoes and his jacket, grab his lunch bag that is filled with food I hope he will eat on his own, without me there to put it on his spoon, offer it to his lips, make sure he gets enough. I pack diapers and a change of clothes.
I get him dressed in real pants, with a button, instead of the usual comfy drawstring pants we both typically wear around the house together. I hope he will be comfortable, not just in his pants, but also in this new environment, without me.
We kiss Daddy goodbye — it’s strange that we are the first ones to leave the house today. We buckle up and back out of our driveway. We are running late, and it’s our first day.
We pull into the parking lot of the little church where the nursery school is located. We have been here before, for visits and for music classes. But today is different from those days. On those days we stayed together, mama and baby, watching each other, learning from each other, helping each other. Today is different. Today is his first day.
As we enter the doors to the church, cubbies and friendly faces greet us. His teachers show us to his cubby and take my packed bags of supplies. I hold him anxiously in my arms, thinking he doesn’t want to let go, thinking that maybe he is scared, nervous, shy, or just unsure. Slowly I lean down to take off the layers that are keeping us warm, and before his feet even touch the ground he is squirming, pulling from my arms. I set him down, and he is off. Without so much as a glance in my direction, he starts to run down the hall toward his new classroom. He is not anxious. He is not shy.
After setting his things into his cubby, I wander down the hallway after him. I peek into the room, lined with low shelves filled with perfectly chosen activities for little hands. I see him already taking out books, showing them to friends, looking bright eyed at all there is to do in this room. I walk toward him, and he barely looks my way. I tell him I am going to go, that I love him, and I hope he has fun. I ask for a kiss. He half glances toward me and brings his hand to his lips, sending a quick one my way.
I am amazed at the independence this little boy is suddenly capable of. This little boy who has been glued to my side for 19 months, who often hides behind my legs or stays snuggled in my arms during outings. This little boy who often cries when I put him down or hand him over to someone for a few hours of care.
This little boy is no longer little. This is his first day, not just at school, but as his own person. Not a baby, not mommy’s constant companion. This is his first day being big.
When school is over, he doesn’t want to leave. He pushes my hands away as I attempt to scoop him up. His face is lit with joy.
As we are driving, he falls asleep in his car seat, exhausted from the adventures of this day. I pull into our driveway, turn off my engine, and sigh. I look in my rearview mirror at the sleeping boy who will always be my baby.
I carry him carefully into our house, into his bed, and tuck the covers around his warm body. I want to linger. I want to crawl in next to him and sleep, our bodies curled together as they have been since his birth. But I don’t. He is capable of taking this nap on his own. He will wake and call, “Mama.” He is big. And this is my first day of realizing it.