Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The End of an Era

Tomorrow is Braden's last day of preschool.  Next year he'll be in kindergarten.

It seems to be a common question to ask a parent how they are handling this.  I've done this myself.  How are you coping?  I would ask.  Can you believe it?  I suppose it's because it is a rite of passage, albeit a manufactured one.  There's nothing innately transformative about the exact age a child graduates from preschool.  Braden will still be the same kid next week that he is this week.  He'll still love on his brothers, raid our snack cabinet, throw the odd tantrum here and there about absolutely nothing, and cry when we try to brush his hair.  He's still our same little boy.

I've tried not to get all emotional about it.  

But I can't deny it.  Between the "graduation" ceremony last week, the pictures sent home from school,  and the slideshow the teachers made of all the kids (which yes, did make me cry), I can't help but take it as an opportunity, or maybe a mandate, to reflect.  

Our little boy isn't so little anymore.  

It's subtle things that drive this home for me.  The size of his feet, for example.  Sometimes I'll look at his feet, and think, My God, what happened?  It's not that they are particularly big.  It's just that they look like kid feet.  The baby feet - that cute little padding on the bottom, and the chubby little toes - are gone.  

Our conversations have gotten progressively more complicated - moving from the simple, toddler concepts, to the difficult ones.  When I told him the other day that my grandmother is in her nineties his response was Oh man, she's going to die soon.  He has started asking not only about death, but about religion.  Illness.  Even race, but in the most amazingly innocent way.  (What color is that girl's skin, mommy?  It's not blonde like mine.).  About marriage and how most boys marry girls but some boys marry boys, and how that's okay.  About divorce (or "breaking up," as he calls it), and about how it must have been sad for mommy that when she was little that her mommy and daddy lived in different houses.  

He still is as cuddly as ever, thank God, but I can see this starting to fade, as well.  I snuggle with him before bed every night, but I can't tell you the last time he sat on my lap.  Or that I held him and rocked him to sleep.  He's too heavy for me now.  

A few months ago, I went to check on him before I went to bed, as I always do.  In that particular moment, for some reason, he looked so different - so much older - so much like a kid, that I actually made my husband come in and look.  He's so big, I said.  

Braden started preschool nearly four years ago.  I had taken a leave of absence from my job, and I was 8 months pregnant with Casey.  Braden looked like this back then.  

First Day of School
He was an only child when this picture was taken.  It was a fleeting time.

I was in such a state of transition myself.  I was scared about leaving Braden - my baby- at school for three whole hours.  I was nervous about having another baby and how it would affect our family dynamic.  I was in a state of confusion as to what to do with my career once my second child arrived. I had no idea of what was to ultimately transpire - that Braden would end up changing preschools two years later; that I would have not one, but two more children; that I would endure a horrific bout of postpartum depression; that I would leave my career altogether; and that it all would work out just fine.

That I would be sitting here, four years later, with a computer on my lap writing about it.  

Braden has had an awesome four years of preschool.  Even the first two years, at a preschool that wasn't quite the right fit, were a good experience.  The past two years at his new preschool have been nothing short of amazing.  It's all I could have ever asked for for him - teachers that are truly caring, amazing friends (both for me and him), and a nurturing, supportive, loving environment.  At the graduation ceremony last week, through tears, I wondered if he would ever be at a place quite so perfect for him.  

After a lot of research and soul searching, we made the decision that Braden will be going to a private school next year.  It seems like a wonderful place, and I can only hope that Braden continues to have wonderful friends, amazing teachers, and a love of school.  

But the older Braden gets, the more I can't guarantee anything for him.  He's already getting to the age where I can't force friendships for him through playdates.  I can't go and observe his class anymore without him being embarrassed.  I no longer pick his birthday party venue, or the guest list for that matter.  Braden is starting to drive the bus, and that's how it should be.  

Braden is growing up.  

On the way home from Delaware last week, I started day dreaming about someday owning a beach house.  I asked my husband when he thought we could make that dream a reality, if ever. He humored me, and said, Maybe in 10 years, if we're lucky.  

I was satisfied with that answer, until it hit me.  In ten years, Braden will be almost 16.  Meaning if we had said fictional beach house, we would only have it for two years until Braden went to college.  

I am continually amazed and humbled by the passage of time.  

Go get 'em, Braden.  We couldn't be more proud.  


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