My little boy, my first born baby, is starting kindergarten tomorrow morning - half day, 5 days a week, but riding the bus. I have been handling this impending life change pretty well all summer, trying to manage all the details, gather information about his classroom, his classmates, the bus routes... anything I could do to regain control of such a major stepping stone over which I have very little control. We've gone to play dates on the playground throughout the summer (disappointingly low attendance though), toured the school twice, and visited the classroom and met the teacher - well, she lives around the corner from us and we've talked in passing for years now, but we met her in the context of being his teacher last week. I thought I was okay, but as Quinn's questions have been more of concern recently and as we prepared for bed tonight - laying out his clothes for tomorrow ("it's a tie day, Mommy", he told me), packing his lunchbox for snack time (5 options, including a surprise snack of Swedish Fish), readying his backpack (even though his supplies were purchased and delivered to the school weeks ago) - well, my heart has started doing that fluttery, flip-floppy thing tonight and I'm hoping I can choke it back tomorrow.
Yes, Quinn has attended preschool for two years now, but I think my problem is in the disconnect in getting him there. For preschool, I drove him there, walked him into the school in the morning and picked him up a couple hours later (along with his two baby sisters in tow),. I talked to the teachers daily and also got to talk with and get to know many of the parents of his classmates. I felt comfortable and welcome myself and that gave me the power to help Quinn to feel comfortable and welcome, too. For Kindergarten, Quinn is taking a bus, so we will walk him around the corner to the bus stop (granted, half the neighborhood will ride the same bus...) and wave goodbye, so long, good luck out there, and hope to God that that bus reappears at 11:54 a.m. like it's supposed to - and that he's on it and that he had a good day and didn't get lost or scared. It pains me to think of him feeling so small and scared and alone, and my not being there to comfort him and take care of him. I know I can't shield him from everything forever, and I understand that this will be an important step for both of us. But still, it's the night before kindergarten so all these feelings are floating around in my head and my heart - that he's my baby and he's been with me nearly every day since he was born, that he's only 5 (but he is 5 after all and that's what 5 year olds do), how brilliant his smile is and how it's grown through the years! I relish in the memories, all the wonderful milestones I've gotten to share with him along the way, how much I love him and I know he loves me. I have to push away the scary thoughts, the thoughts of what could go wrong - like, getting off the bus at the wrong stop or getting on the wrong bus and then being lost forever, or what if someone is mean to him or makes him feel bad, or what if he can't find his classroom in the first weeks, or what if there's a predator who somehow manages to kidnap him, or what if a shooter enters the school (I couldn't help but notice three outside doors right by his classroom...). I've walked him through all these instances, with suggestions and procedures on what to do (hopefully not scaring him in the process), and everyone assures me that none of these scary things will happen. I just have to hope that he is a strong, confident little boy, and smart enough to think clearly and troubleshoot on his own, and that his guardian angel is looking out for him when I can't be there by his side, holding his hand.
Tomorrow, I know I will distract myself with the details - pancake breakfast, making sure his bus pass and class name tags are fully visible, that his lunch has adequate refrigeration to stay cool until snack time, that we get his bus drivers name and that he remembers to stay sitting even though there's no seat belts, and the fact that right after I follow behind his school bus to make sure it arrives at his school, I have to go have another blood test to make sure my latest miscarriage "has been successful" (can't go there yet, as it's a floodgate of emotions I'm not able to put into words yet), and that I have much to do having been away for 4 days and that we are hosting a BBQ tomorrow night... I have plenty to keep my head busy, I just hope the worries in my heart don't overpower me.
One thing is for sure - I will be standing at that bus stop well before 11:54 a.m., along with his sisters, anxiously awaiting his return home, hoping he has a huge smile on his face and so many wonderful stories about his first day of kindergarten. I'm going to give him the biggest hug he's ever had to date, and then I'll keep him close until 8:26 a.m. the next morning when we have to do it all again.