Next week, my son will start kindergarten. Sniff, sniff. How did this happen? It seems like only yesterday we were bringing him home from the hospital. I think my husband, who usually has a heavy foot, drove like 10 mph all the way home, as I sat in the back and held the car seat down as if it were going to fly out of the window.
We were so scared we were going to break him. I remember we shared a moment on the first night we were home with him by ourselves where Frank and I just looked at each other terrified. We didn’t have to say a word. We both knew what the other was thinking. “Oh my god. What are we supposed to do with this thing?”
We figured it out — as much as any parents do, I guess — and have managed to keep him alive and have tried our best to make him a good little person, though he has his less-than-stellar moments, as we all do.
Anders has one of those late birthdays right on the cut-off date, so we had to make the difficult choice of whether we wanted him to be the oldest or youngest in his class. I had originally thought we would let him be the youngest and he could just suck it up, but after the advice of preschool teachers, articles on the issue and listening to other parents of August babies, we decided to do three years of preschool and let him be the oldest in his class once he started kindergarten. But I still question whether it was the right decision. (Word of advice: Don’t conceive your child around Thanksgiving or, um, after a particularly memorable Iron Bowl, because you don’t want to have to make this decision. Just sayin’.)
So in some ways, I feel like we are overdue for this next big step. But I also know once he walks through that door on the first day, a little scared and sporting a backpack that’s just a little too big, the years are just going to fly by. And the time between kindergarten and high school graduation is going to seem like an instant. I think that’s what’s had me a bit emotional about this upcoming milestone. And because I know he is about to start letting go of us, a little more each year, to try and figure out this crazy world on his own.
And while I do want him to spread his wings and fly, I am just as terrified to start letting him go as I was that first night alone with him. It’s a big, scary world out there and navigating it can be tough.
Remember those “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” posters you would see hanging in classrooms? They reminded us how we learned to play fair, share, don’t hit and, most importantly, “flush!” — among other things. They are certainly great rules to live by whether you are 5 or 55, especially the flushing, but it will be a long time before you realize some things.
Anders, I am so excited for you, buddy. This is such an important year and you are going to learn so much, but here are some other things I hope you learn along the way as well, as you grow from being my sweet little baby boy into a man.
• Some of the friends you are about to make will be your friends for the rest of your life. Probably not a lot of them, maybe even just one or two. It’s not that you all won’t still like each other, it’s just that life is going to take you all in so many different directions, some will slip away and you will just lose touch. But the ones you do remain friends with will be your closest because they will know every chapter of your life, not just the good, bad or interesting ones or the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version you provide them.
• You are not going to be great at everything, but you need to try as many things as you can until you do find where your talents lie and what you love. And once you do, you need to work as hard as you can to cultivate it.
• You don’t want a trophy you don’t deserve. The sweetest victories are those you work the hardest for.
• You’re going to make mistakes. Lots of them. When you do, own up to them and do your best to make things right. Then learn from them.
• You are not going to like everyone and everyone isn’t going to like you. And that’s OK, but always be kind and don’t just write someone off immediately. If you dig a little deeper, you may just find there is something you do have in common.
• You will think your father and I are clueless idiots for a long time until one day you will realize we may (kind of) know what we are talking about. (Make sure to tell us when that day comes.)
• Your heart is going to get broken. And the first time it’s going to hurt like hell. But I promise you will get through it and one day you will realize all of your broken hearts were necessary to get to the person you will spend forever with.
My sweet guy, it’s going to take a lot longer than kindergarten to learn much of this. And even when you do, you will still struggle with some of them, as your mother often does. You will figure all of this out on your own, but we will always be here for you and will try to protect you from as much as we can, just like that first ride home from the hospital. I pray these years will go by as slowly as it did. Sniff, sniff.