I just walked Cavanaugh to school for his first day of first grade. Unlike last year, I was not in tears before he even walked through the classroom door. I did not go to the library to be comforted by the PTA. I walked him in and walked home.
Okay, I felt a few tears in my throat.
I woke up Saturday morning so sad that it was the end of summer, thinking about how in two days all of our time would be structured by someone else, and how the time between school pick up and bedtime would be so short, and how I would miss him. How could summer have passed so quickly? What had we done with the time?
Then, when we’d been up for about an hour, instead of playing a board game or doing a jigsaw puzzle or listening to an audiobook with Cavanaugh, or going to the pool or trying to think of something new to do, I realized that what I really wanted was to get on the computer for hours to get some work done. Or be able to run errands or do research for work. I wanted hours. Not snippets of time when he would play by himself and I would make food or return a quick email. Not the times when he would visit his dad and I would be scheduled with clients, computer work, housework, and trying to capitalize on every minute without him.
I am out of energy for summer. I don’t have any more adventures in me. At least not day after day, all day long–until summer bedtime, which is way closer to 10 p.m. than 7 p.m. And the question of how we’d spent the time, well, I could write a dozen five paragraph “What I Did on Summer Vacation” essays. We visited his grandma, cousins, aunt, uncle, grandpa, saw his godfather and family. We had playdates, hosted a kids’ book club, went to high tea, went to the river, the pool, the mountains. We baked, played games, did home improvement projects. We read, had tickle fests, danced in the living room. I afforded time instead of money because we have a lifetime to go on big ticket adventures, but it feels like the time is fleeting when we’ll want to just hang out with each other all day, cuddle into a storybook, or hold hands as we cross a parking lot.
He was out of energy for summer too. Last week, when I asked what he wanted to play, he went into his room to read with his door closed. When I checked on him half an hour later to see if he was hungry, he said, “I’m reading Mama” and went back into his book.
We were both ready for school to start, because we know what it looks like, how the days run, what to pack for lunch–so much so that I could write about how to get organized for back to school.
This year, he’s not a stranger in a strange land. Before we even reached his classroom for Meet the Teacher on Friday, two kids had run up and hugged Cavanaugh, announcing, “You’re in my class. Come this way!” We walked in the door and the teacher got down on her knee to look Cavanaugh in the eye as she introduced herself. When she asked his favorite subject and he answered, “Math,”she looked at me and said, “He’s a really good reader too though, isn’t he?” because she’d heard about him from his kindergarten teacher, and the principal had given her a copy of our teacher request letter. He knows he’ll have music class, art, and PE and that they’re called Specials. He knows where the library and cafeteria and bathroom are. It’s not all about what he’s losing this year–the time with me and his dad, the freedom at home to play or rest or not be an introvert surrounded by people. He walked in this morning excited about what he’s going to learn and who he’s going to see.
And I walked out feeling like I was leaving him with a kind teacher, in a place where he’s okay without me–which gives me the room to come home and write instead of spending the day wondering if he’s okay. He’s just fine, and so am I. It’s amazing what a difference a year can make.