There are few childhood milestones that are mandatory baby book entries. First tooth, first step, first word....
First day of school.
Braden's first day of school was as traumatic for me as it was for him. I remember there being such a swirl of emotions. The anxiety - What if they lose him? How will they know if he's thirsty? Will they be nice to him? Hug him if he needs one? The guilt - Am I starting him in school too early? Will he ever stop crying? Will he ever forgive me? And a sudden realization of the passage of time - How did this happen? He's still my baby! How can he be going to school already?
The first day that I dropped Braden off, two and a half years ago, I left him sobbing in a teacher's arms, and heard his screams all the way to the parking lot. I can always pull him out if I want to, I remember saying to myself. And then my own tears started.
That all seems like a distant memory now, and Braden loves school. It was the best thing for him.
But this week, it was Casey's turn.
It didn't go well.
I didn't really expect it to. It was typical, if nothing else. An innocent, neutral look as we approached the school. I wonder what we're doing here? An initial interest in the toys and books in the classroom. Look, Mommy, isn't this cool? A look of confusion as he realized that mommy was leaving. Why is she hugging me bye? Surely she's not leaving me here. A look of terror. Holy crap, she is leaving me here! Full on crying desperation. Are you serious? No freaking way am I staying here without you! Followed by pleading convulsions. Get off of me strange lady. I will kick and hit and scream and I'm not kidding! Bring back my moooooooooooooooom!
Just like his brother, I heard him screaming from the parking lot.
This time I didn't cry. I kind of laughed, to be honest. Because this time, I know it's going to be okay. I know he's going to love school too, and I know that he needs this - that this is the best thing for him. I didn't feel anxious, I didn't feel guilty, and I was only slightly phased by the whole passage of time thing.
But later on that day, when I picked him up, all puffy eyed and snotty, I did feel a deep sadness.
It is such a cliche, but it's true - there's such a special bond between a mother and a child. From the first nine months of harboring the child - and feeling the growing, the hiccuping, the kicking - to the early months of a child's life, where the baby and mother are still attached not only emotionally, but physically. When nursing sessions give way to crawls and steps and tumbles, it's still Mommy that the child wants when he falls. Still Mommy that he cries out for in the middle of the night. And at times, it's only Mommy that really knows what that child needs - words don't need to be spoken. There's an understanding, a connection, a bond. When mother and child are physically separated, there is a sense of unrest for both.
Obviously there are times when the two have to be apart, for short periods. But when that separation becomes routine, either due to work or school or some other circumstance, it's the beginning of a new phase.
For Braden, that phase began when he was six months old, and I went back to work.
For Casey, it started on Wednesday.
For nearly two and a half years I have been home with Casey, all the time. Sure, there were afternoons here and there that I was away, and a few weekend trips, but for the most part, he and I have been together. I am his constant. Changing his diapers, feeding him, picking him up when he cries. Holding him like a puzzle piece, who fits just perfectly in my arms.
Part and parcel of each other. My baby. My companion. My sidekick.
This whole school thing doesn't only represent a rite of passage for little Casey, but it marks the beginning of an era where he has his own thing going on. His own life, if only for a few hours a few days a week. An experience that doesn't involve me. Where he'll have to fend for himself a bit more, to ask for what he needs, to soothe himself. Where he'll make friends and bond with teachers and do cute things I'll probably never know about.
I know he needs it. I know it's a gift. I know it's about time.
But I'll so miss him.
Go get 'em, Tiger.
On a separate note, my feet are gracing the pages of one of my favorite blogs today. I'm on Jodifur's Shoe Friday! Woo-hoo!