Last week, my baby, my youngest, my little bug, the reason I stopped working, and the person who I’ve literally spent more time with in the past five years than any other person on earth, went off to full-day school.
Without a backward glance, he strode into a classroom–a classroom full of strangers, mind you–and he was gone. For eight hours a day now he’ll be off with his teacher, his friends, doing his own thing, for the next…well, forever. And I’m relegated to running errands alone and wondering where the time went.
When each of my children began school, I watched them go with a certain sense of finality, knowing that I would no longer be the main influence in their days. They would do things and say things and see things that I would know nothing about. I watched with pride, but also with sadness. It’s hard letting go.
This time, though, was even more difficult. Because this is the last time. There’s no one left at home with me all day, and I work and clean and read and write in a house echoing with silence and the occasional ping of the dryer finishing a load. Music doesn’t seem to fill the empty space very well. And although I’m not lonely, and I’m certainly not lacking things to do, it’s a little solitary.
Even though the first thing Quinn said when he woke up that morning — the VERY first thing — was “I don’t want to go to school”, he overcame his doubts. He put on his new uniform, packed up his bag, and walked in to a new place in a new country filled with new people. He never even considered hanging back, waiting at the door, clinging to my hand. He looked in the class, said hello to his teacher (who he’d never met, never even seen before), and was off to explore. He wasn’t scared.
I walked away from Quinn’s class last week with a smile on my face, proud of his bravery and his lack of hesitation. I made it about three steps outside of his line of vision before the tears escaped down my cheeks, but I choked them back, grabbed Matt’s hand (because even if Quinn didn’t need a hand to hold right then, I certainly did), and snuck a peek through his classroom window on the way to the car. He was already playing and talking.
Motherhood, it seems, is just one long series of letting go. Of setting the children up for success, but yourself up for heartbreak. Of brave faces and hidden tears. We do it — we let them go — because we know it’s the right thing, because it’s good for them, because it’s how they grow and learn. But that doesn’t make it any easier.
This face when I picked him up at the end of the day helped though.