They got aboard the school bus this morning.
With a new backpack for him, and a zippered binder for her because middle school kids wouldn't be caught dead with a backpack, or so I'm told.
Once, I laid her clothes out with care, picking just the right outfit for today. Now she does this, and it takes several hours and changes of clothes to get it just right. When she climbed aboard the bus to kindergarten all those years ago, I dressed her in an adorable matching pink top and skirt with darker pink hearts in a harlequin pattern. She would be utterly humiliated by the wearing of something like that now.
And once, I sat in a room with a table full of therapists who all told me that it might be possible for my son to mainstream into kindergarten with the rest of his friends from the neighborhood. I was elated, but terrified. He'd been insulated in his own special learning bubble at the Intermediate Unit. Public school with kids who don't think like he does or respond like he does seemed like a recipe for disaster somehow.
Instead, it was a recipe for success - due in no small part to the excellent services my school district offers, the skill and dedication of his teachers and aides, and of course, the strength and determination of my son himself. Nobody could do this for him - not even me. He stepped aboard that school bus four years ago and he hasn't looked back.
And time marches forward, just as he does and she does.
Last night, my daughter kissed me goodnight and reminded me sternly:
"Mom, you can't cry this year. I mean it. It's so embarrassing."
"I know, honey. I'll try, I promise."
I wanted to tell her that someday she'd know how this is, this feeling of my arms getting emptier every year, of the pride that swells the lump in my throat when I see the two miniature adults they'll someday become. The endless cataloging of these milestone moments. The Mom in me knows them all, but the Mom in me also knows how useless a conversation that would be with a pre-teen, who only knows that Mom needs to lighten up - especially in front of her friends.
So breakfast was made and lunch was packed (for him, not for her - it's middle school and nobody packs a lunch in middle school, they all buy - or so I'm told) and we walked out the door for the bus stop on the corner. The neighbors were all there, holding coffee and video cameras. Our pictures will chronicle not only how the kids have changed, but how we've changed as well. We laughed, we hugged each other, and we put an arm around the Moms who put a kid on the bus for the first time.
And then the bus was loaded and it pulled away as I smiled and waved, grateful that the tears waited till then to spill over, as they rounded the corner and headed off to take on the world.