He came downstairs, dressed in shorts, a too big hand-me-down t-shirt, striped socks pulled up as high on his legs as they could go and running shoes. His ball cap was slightly crooked, just like his smile. Silently, with a million words in his eyes, he walked towards me then cut hard left and grabbed his backpack. Okay. I get it. I’ll just fetch my camera instead.
Last year, on his first day of pre-school, after going through the motions and emotions of dropping him off, I came home, put my littlest one down for a nap, and went through the next 2 1/2 hours feeling phantom pains. My chest was tight, my heart cramped. Our house felt too quiet. I felt as if a part of me had been cut off and in its place I could feel movement, hear faint giggles, feel tiny fingers clasped around my neck. Oh I was so reluctant to let him go that first time, to let change creep into my bones that were well and warmly padded, held tightly together with sloppy kisses and dirt smudged cheeks.
Camera in hand, I followed him out the front door. He stood in front of our gate and let me take his picture. Just two of them and real quick. He even said “cheese” to the lens which is something I never ask my children to do. Going through the motions of this first day of school, he seemed like an old soul to me. Like he’s done this for twelve years already, like it’s a big deal, but not really.
After drop-off, the littlest little and I came home. Our house was quieter but not silent like the last time. This time the little one moved about freely – no more morning naps for this toddler and, if you didn’t already guess, he went straight to big brother’s most coveted toys, a treasure chest waiting to be looted.
I opened our windows and invited the cooler early fall air to dance in while I washed dishes. As the fresh air moved all around me I thought about my little one at school, knowing that he was most likely having a wonderful time. I listened to the littlest trying his hardest to sound like a revved up engine even though his voice is soft like spun sugar. Inside I felt just right. I didn’t feel my heart cramping or phantom aches and pains. I didn’t feel breathless like the last first time, and there were no tears. In fact, I felt real happiness and joy for myself and my boys. They are growing, thriving. And motherhood is growing me.