Thursday, January 27, 2011

January 27, 2011 ~ Day 49

Image by Anankkml

Today was my younger son's last day at preschool. He'll start up the new school on Monday, a thirty minute drive from our community. Due to circumstances beyond our control (tuition agreements and school calendars) he will be the guinea pig for this new family adventure we are embarking upon... the first of us to cross the threshold into our new life. For the first two weeks of February he will straddle the divide between his old world (home-school-friends-community) and a new world (home-school-friends-community). He is our astronaut, heading into a place that we as a family have never been before.

This is a lot to ask of a three year old.

We've tried not to make a big deal about the ending of his time at the only school he has ever known; acknowledging the change and asking him how he feels about it, but not spending too much time on the topic. After all, he is so young that all of life still seems full of change and adventure to him - he hasn't had time yet to become set in his ways.

Over the course of the week we've prepared a little bit every day for his "new" school - gathering the materials they require (lunch box, plant for watering, place mat and cloth napkin).

"What are you excited about at the new school?" I've asked, to keep him focused on the excitement of the future rather than thinking of all that he will lose in the move.

"I like the bikes. And the play house. The sand box. I like that silly boy named Sam*."

"Great, buddy! I'll bet you and Sam will have a lot of great times together riding those bikes."

Toward the end of his last week at school, my boy asked me if he could bring a treat for his friends on the final day. I agreed and we went together to pick out store-bought cupcakes this morning (which turned into wide sugar cookies with thick yellow frosting and sprinkles when he decided that they looked tastier than the cupcakes).

As he walked into his school this morning, he did so with the swagger of one who knows he is bringing a gift for which all of his friends will be thankful. "Today's my last day. I've got COOKIES!" he sang out as he entered the building.

"Bye, honey!" I called after him just in time to catch him flash a brilliant smile.

Four hours later I went to pick him up and found a totally different child.

With the corners of his mouth turned down, he was sitting somberly by himself waiting for me. "Hi little man!" I called, and when he saw me he jumped up and wrapped himself around my legs.

"How was your day?"

"It was ok."
(Very small voice.) I am sad."

"Oh no, why?"

"I don't want to leave my friends."

All of the radiance had left his tiny face, and instead I saw only worry and sorrow.

"I don't want to leave my teachers. I want to stay."

This is a perfectly natural reaction for any human being, child or adult. Of course he doesn't want to leave his comfort zone to try something new. Logically I knew that this could be coming, and I even half-anticipated it.

Still, my heart fell through my shoes like an asteroid upon hearing his words. It felt pretty bad to know that my little sweetheart was suffering, and even worse to have to face the fact that I am the one making the decision that is causing his sorrow.

I never fully understood before becoming a parent just how heavy the weight of responsibility is in this job... how you always know in the back of your head that your choices are shaping your children and having a real affect upon the course of their lives; even upon their world-view.

Even though I have over 90% confidence that this move will be wonderful for our family, I still remember how it felt to be eight years old and told that I would be changing schools because my parents thought it would be the right thing for me. (They turned out to be 100% right.) I even vaguely remember crying and holding the telephone while talking with the principal of the school I was leaving, telling her how much I didn't want to go. I remember how hard it was to walk into a new classroom with all new kids and find the courage not to turn right around and head back to my mother.

I can't believe I have become the mother, and now I'm sending my own little boy into a brave new world.

Parenting is the hardest job I have ever had, and also the most important one. My decisions on a minute-to-minute basis actually do have a real affect on my children that I can usually see right away. If my child asks me for a bottle of ice water and I don't get it for him right away (which often I don't, because I'm juggling ten chores and besides, I'm not the maid!) I can actually predict how quickly he will do something naughty to get my attention.

When this same child sliced his thumb nearly off at his grandfather's house while I was on hospital bed rest at the end of my pregnancy, I couldn't help but feel that if I had just been there - been at home with him - none of it would have happened. My urgent sense of responsibility for him actually prompted me to unplug all of the wires that connected me to the fetal monitors, take off my hospital gown, dress and discharge myself despite the urgency of my own situation so I could go and visit him next door at Children's hospital as he got stitched back together.

(Unfortunately I fainted as soon as I got there and they put me in a wheelchair and sent me right back to bed rest... so I had to wait until my husband brought him to my hospital bed to see for myself that he was okay.)

All of this to say that even when I am not physically present with my children, I feel this intense sense of responsibility for everything that happens to them. Is this a mom thing? A parent thing? I don't know. Maybe it is simply my Type A personality shining through.

On Monday I will drive this darling little boy up to his new preschool, take video as he marches through its front door with his little lunch box and plant, leave him with a hug and a big smile... and hold my breath for the rest of the morning until it is time to pick him up.

Will he love it there? Will he hate it? Will he make new friends, or come home crying for the old ones? Will he tell me he can't wait to come back on Tuesday, or that he doesn't want to move at all?

Whatever the result turns out to be, I am responsible for gently guiding him through this transition ~ a major life change in which he had no vote.

I can't determine whether or not he will be happy at the new school, I can't make friends for him, I can't alter the relationships he develops with his new teachers. I can be there for him though. I can listen to him, I can provide a stable home for him to return to from the wide world he is still discovering. I can love him with all my heart.

I am reminded every day that choices my husband and I make for our own lives make a meteor-like impact upon our children. It is heavy to know that you are personally responsible for the health and welfare of another human being, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Despite the weight, I wouldn't trade being a mother for anything in the universe.

I strive to be worthy of the tremendous blessing of my responsibilities.

*Name changed to protect the identity of the child in question.

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