Friday, August 16, 2013

[Big Sigh] The First Day

When Henrik walked into our room this morning after spending the whole night in his bed (happy dance) I knew it was going to be a good day. Eric and I both made a big deal about how grown up he was for sleeping in his own bed (it's been a challenge since we moved to CO) and how he must be ready for school since he was acting so grown up. Henrik looked at us and just said, "yep". To him it wasn't really a big deal, at least not at 6 AM.

Here's the thing. I didn't want to make a big deal (even though, oh my God, it is a big deal) about school, but I wanted to address it like it was normal, we didn't have a lot of lead in time since we had to enroll so quickly, so instead, I dropped it into conversations; like when he couldn't pull up his pants after he went to the bathroom he started to cry, I casually mentioned that he could do it if he calmed down and took a breath, and said, "kids who go to school have to do it by themselves". He did it. When he started to cry because his brother took his toy, I told him it was okay to be upset and cry, but instead of crying right away, maybe he could use his words better and "you know,  kids at school may try to take your toys, but if you use your words they will probably give it back". He stopped crying. It was as if school had this power over him, I don't know what kind of power, but something where he knew that it was special for big kids and he wanted so desperately to be one.

This morning we made cupcakes, a sort of Happy 1st Day of School Celebration for when he came home. He smiled the whole way through it. He knows that if there are cupcakes, something awesome is about to happen.

After lunch (an early lunch) we sat down to watch a show so we could rest a bit before school. Each episode we watched was about school, yes, I understand that school is about to start for every child across the country, but the fact that we were watching it today was even better. Henrik perked up and watched carefully as Special Agent Oso helped a girl find her bus and then helped a boy figure out how to use the bathroom in his Preschool, even Disney was sending us encouragement for our first day.

At 12:40 PM we got ready, and Eric helped Henrik go poop (thank you potty Gods, and Special Agent Oso) Henrik not only pooped on the potty, but wiped his OWN butt, put his clothes back on by himself AND washed and dried his hands. It was a miracle. There was no fussing, there was no crying, there was no "I can't do it". Once he had his shoes on he said a goodbye to Daddy and we went out side for a few pictures, then we moved quickly into the car so we could get to school on time.

While we were driving I said, "Henrik, do mom's go to school with kids?""No, they stay with the babies." I shook my head and laughed a bit, it was true. "Right, but I'll be there right after circle time to pick you up! And today, we get to have cupcakes to celebrate your first day!"
"Woo Hoo!" he clapped his hands and smiled.
"I'm really proud of you, you're so brave." I said as I tried to hold back tears. "Mom, I'm not going to cry, OK?"
"OK, it's okay to cry, but just remember that you have our family picture on your family board so if you miss me, or dad, or Theo just go and look at us." I don't really know what you say to a kid when they leave you for the first time, but I thought that this conversation went alright. Right?

School is literally one mile from our house, but I was speeding. I was rushing for no reason except not to be late, though as an after thought I should have driven slow so that I could have made the moment last forever. There's nothing like driving your kid to their first day of school. If you haven't done it yet, it's a very surreal experience.

Henrik walked up to school no problem. He walked in the building no problem. "Mom, stop taking pictures". I listened.

After we signed in and I talked to the secretary for a minute, I said, "It's time to go to see Ms. Kelley." It was then that he grabbed my arm and held it tight. It caught me by surprise, it actually made me gasp. I wanted so badly to pick him up and hold him. I wanted to turn around and dash out the door so we could try it again another day, another week or another year from now, but I couldn't. Instead, I held on, just as tight and pretended to be as brave as he was.

I pointed out our path: the caterpillar and the butterfly, the dots on the floor, the turns, and the mountain lion. He let go of my hand as we approached the door, he peered in, smiled and waved at his teacher. It was as simple as that. He was comfortable. As soon as she opened the door, he ran right in, found his cubby, dropped off his backpack, and started playing. I wanted to show him where I'd be on that family wall if he got sad, or to tell him that I'd be right outside the door after school, or to tell him how much I loved him, but he wasn't interested. He just wanted to be there. I had to chase him down in the room, but when I caught up, I knelt down and took his hands, I told him to have a great day, gave him a kiss on the forehead and said, "I'll see you really soon, have fun". He ran off to play. I walked out of the classroom and didn't look back, I couldn't.

When I got home, Eric asked, "Are you okay?" "Yeah, it's just a little sad." He hugged me and I kind of laughed as I let out a few tears. "We did it, he's alive, we made it to school and you've done a great job with him". I cried a little harder. I didn't want to be sad, or be the mom who cried when they dropped off their kids at school, but I was. I am.

I frosted the cupcakes while Theo finished his nap. The whole time I just thought about how proud he was as he entered that room. I was proud of him, so proud of him. And I was proud of myself too. Eric was right, we did make it. Isn't the goal in parenting to make your kids successful members of society? I'm supposed to teach him to be confident and comfortable and to love school. We've supported him and have told him to be the best at whatever he wants to be and now he's actually starting that adventure, that journey in discovering life beyond the comforts of his own family. That quest to figure out who he is and why he thinks things- to challenge and question, to learn and create and to pursue the things that he enjoys and loves.  

When Theo woke up he sat up "Where's Buh-Buh?"I kind of laughed, ''He's at school." Theo looked around, "Huh?" "He's at school today," I said again. "No! I want him here with me" he cried. It made me bite my lips. I didn't exactly see this coming. Theo and I spent the afternoon together, it was wonderful to get to know Theodor on an individual and independent level. I couldn't believe how cool Theo was. Usually he's fighting with Henrik and being a pest on purpose, but now, I got to see how incredibly smart and curious this child actually is. It was an amazing experience to spend three uninterrupted hours with him. I think I'm going to love it actually. Even though I was having the time of my life, I kept checking the clock. These three hours were the longest three hours of my life.

When it was finally time to pick up Henrik, Theodor and I rushed to school. I wasn't the first parent to arrive, but Henrik was sitting in the chair (at his table) closest to the door. As soon as he saw me in the hall he stood up and rushed to the door. He ran right into my arms and gave me the longest, tightest, most magnificent hug in the world. He didn't let go. There are no words to describe that hug, but I will never forget it.

I had to let go of him because I was about to fall over with Theo trying to get in on the action, and when I did, I asked Henrik if he had a great day, he quickly said "yes" and went back to where the toys were. He got out some toys and started playing again. It made me feel good knowing that he was happy to see me but enjoyed being there so much that he wanted to stay longer. Now that he knows I'm always going to come back, I wonder if I'll even get hugged like that ever again?

When we got home we started our celebration. We talked about his day, sang the "Happy 1st Day of School" song and even blew out some candles.

That night, just before I went to bed I went in to their room, like always to kiss them. When I looked at Henrik in the dim light of his night light, I swear there was a boy laying there. I am sure of it actually. Sure, he's still got cherub cheeks, but he's tall. Really tall. And even in his sleep he was presenting himself like a kid, not curled up like a baby, or butt up like his brother. It was odd. I see him every day so when he grows or changes I don't usually see it unless it's through pictures. But tonight, when I looked at him I saw a difference in him even from that morning.

We have many more first days ahead of us, and while it does make me tear up to think of them, I can't wait. There is no greater joy than seeing my boys be proud of themselves, there is no greater sense of achievement than seeing my boys meet a milestone or tackle something that was previously difficult. And there is no greater love than the love I have for them and all that they do. So today, Henrik, on your first day of Preschool, know that there isn't am mom, more proud of her son than I am of you.

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