I remember this day so well. It was the end of summer, 2011 on the shore of Lake Michigan. The wind was whipping through my hair and within a few minutes, Jack was asleep in my arms. I wondered what he thought as we stood at the edge of that great lake. It seemed so big and he seemed so small and I can remember the feeling of his tiny hand clinging to my shirt as he slowly nodded off.
This morning was Day 3 of Kindergarten. We got to school early and walked over to the playground, Jack in his new Sketchers Memory Foam sneakers ("they give me good memories") and his Pokemon backpack on his back. I saw his dark brown eyes dart around at the throngs of kids running and jumping. We walked around the edge of the playground in silence until he whispered "there are a lot of big kids here." We decided to wait near the door for the bell, his hand slowly slipping into mine. We walked to his classroom, put his backpack and lunch away and just as I was about to leave, the tears started spilling onto his cheeks. "Don't leave," he whispered. We walked out into the hallway and I knelt down to his level and just like this photo taken 5 years ago, he rested his head on my shoulder, tiny hand clinging to my shirt while tears dropped onto my hair. I rubbed his head and kissed him. "I'm not good at kindergarten." "You will be," I assured him. I walked him back to his seat just as his teacher came over to give him a pep talk while I walked out of the room. The confident boy we picked up and dropped off at preschool last week had been replaced by a wide-eyed and fearful boy and I couldn't help but feel like I had left him on a vast shore all alone. The excitement of the first day of school had been replaced by a new awareness of everything that had changed.
|A happy first day filled with excitement|
A few weeks ago I heard the song "Closing Time" by Semisonic on the radio. I hadn't heard it in years. I learned some time ago that the song was actually written about the birth of a child. The lyric that stuck with me was this one- "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." I have to remind myself that our track record for getting through new beginnings is 100%- first teeth, first steps, first day at daycare, first day at preschool, a new brother, a new house and soon, another new brother. I remember the first day baby Jack and I toured his first daycare. Those little brown eyes darted all around then too. Daycare was a huge beginning, kindergarten is daycare's end.
I told Trevor that we both need to buckle up for the autumn that lies ahead. This little family has been through so many changes this year and more are coming. "100% track record" is my new mantra.
But this week has come with a lot of unexpected joys- spending all day Tuesday with Jack since kindergarten started Wednesday. I took him out to breakfast after we toured his classroom and met his new teacher. At breakfast, he played barista requesting that I swirl together Vanilla and Pumpkin creamer. I proclaimed it was absolutely delicious (to his great delight).
Wednesday was another morning spent together, getting him ready for his first day, buying him his favorite donut and standing nervously with the other parents around the edge of the classroom as we watched our babies become students.
I know that with time he'll get his sparkle back about school. He will make friends and find a love of learning. At the end of every day this week, he's had more happy memories to share than tough ones. He's growing and changing right before my eyes. Before too long, he'll be one of the big kids that look so intimidating to the kindergartners. I know all of this because he's our kid. He's the oldest child of two oldest children whose firsts were also their parents' firsts. Oldest children who found their way through life whose track record of getting through tough stuff is 100%.
But my favorite image of Jack from the summer of 2016 was taken by his dad on a field trip his preschool took to Western Michigan University. The field trip was to a geological exhibit, but Trevor and Jack took a detour to the massive auditorium on campus where Trevor used to work. Trevor captured this image of Jack up on the stage and while we'll never know what he was thinking in this moment, the image of my confident and thoughtful little boy brought a tear to my eye. I've kept this image close to my heart this week as the perfect illustration of how capable my boy is of facing big things. Tonight I told him that I knew he was going to be ok because he's my kid and I make brave, strong, and clever kids who will be awesome at kindergarten.
There will be so many new and vast shores, wind whipping, sand shifting beneath his feet and I won't be there for all of them, but I won't need to be. Jack has always known and will always know, that I am always behind him every step of the way. For all the beginnings and for their tearful, bittersweet, and inevitable ends.