Your Last Not First Day of School

We drove him to daycare this morning just like we do every morning, like we have been doing every morning this summer. We drove to daycare just like we’ve been doing every morning since I went back to work over a year ago.

There is nothing different about today. No new shoes (though my growing boy needs them). No new haircut, though his brother could sure use a trim. No fancy new clothes. Just an angry birds tee-shirt which he tried to exchange for a dirty Sonic the Hedgehog one. No backpack full of supplies on his back. Just a pink and a blue stuffed Yoshis in his arms for him to hold at nap time.

Cameron on his last not first day of school

It is the first day of school for kids in our city. It is not Cameron’s first day of school. Not for another year.

Driving through the city on September 3rd can be a shocking change from the previous months. Halifax is a city full of universities, which means September brings a whole new cohort of drivers to our traffic, many of whom are unused to our roads. Add drivers driving back to the city after a summer of vacation, school buses (much to my two year old’s delight), crossing guards and walking kids, September commuting requires new timelines and more vigilance. So our drive to daycare this morning was different.

As we drove, we told Gavin to look out for school buses and we told Cameron that he was going to be one of the biggest kids at daycare now. Sometimes as a parent you emphasize the positives in hopes that they miss the negatives. Because I need him to not notice the sadness I’m feeling for him. His best friends at daycare went to school today. They went off to a school that Cameron won’t be going to next year. We’re not friends with their parents. These friends that Cameron has talked about day in and day out for a couple of years are suddenly out of his life. No more comparing cool tee-shirts. No more birthday party invites. But instead of breaking down in tears as I kissed him goodbye, I proudly reminded him that he is officially the biggest kid. He’s no longer that chubby little newly one-year-old at daycare, watching his Mama walk away for the first time through teary eyes. He is now my big, tall and lanky, confident boy proudly taking on his role of “big kid” at daycare.

Cameron on his last not first day of school

“This year is going to go by so fast,” I say to his Dad as we drive away from daycare this morning. Today it is September 3rd. Next it will be Thanksgiving and Halloween and Christmas and Maternity Leave and New Baby and Birthdays and Summer and then… just like that… that fast… the first day of school.

And I’ll walk him into his school for the first time, and watch as he is no longer the biggest, but the little one again. I’ll help introduce him to a big new place and a big new system. We’ll both get used to the new schedule and the new demands and the new independence. And we’ll say goodbye again – maybe through teary eyes once more, but more likely through brave eyes – from both of us.

I don’t want to keep my children little forever. That is never my intention. I need to remind myself that my job is to help raise my boys to be good, independent adults. The very part of me that wants to keep them little is exactly what I need to ignore to be a good parent. So on a day like today, a day like any other day, a day that is more noticeable for what it is not than what it is, I don’t understand my sadness. I don’t understand this lump in my throat or the tears in my eyes. Am I this upset about Cameron’s friends moving on? He only has four more months of daycare before he’s home with me anyway. Am I so shocked by the passage of time? I pride myself in living in the present with my kids. I’m never surprised at how old they seem to get (though I can’t really believe I’m old enough to have a kid so big).

Maybe this sadness is a combination of it all. Maybe there’s an underlying fear and pain and desire to hold on in me that I’ve hidden away in the back of my subconscious in my efforts to be a Good Mom. Maybe it is in all of us, this desire to not let go of something that is so very good, even though what might come is also wonderful. Maybe change has just never come easy to me, and this day has shocked me with how much change it has brought, when I thought it would just be a day like any other day. Lasts are kind of like firsts, aren’t they?

Maybe I’m building enough strength for both of us to use on that day next year when we need to say goodbye, through brave eyes.

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