This morning, my daughter re-revised the previously revised revision of the earlier revision of the "First Day of School" outfit. Welcome to seventh grade, ladies and gentlemen.
I asked her brother what he wanted to wear today and his reply was: "I don't know...a shirt and some shorts?"
Anna had to wake up an hour earlier, to catch the 7:14 a.m. older-middle-school bus. She leaped out of bed at 6 o'clock in the blessed a.m., bright-eyed and ready to take on the whirling social world of a new school year. I have no illusions that this will be a regular occurrence. I imagine I'll be shrieking like a harpy around 7 a. m. by the end of the week.
David was a little more low key, but still enthused. He's got a male teacher this year, and he's a little perplexed by it. I am doing a happy dance because this teacher is universally loved by students and parents alike, and when I met him at back to school night, he couldn't wait to see David. He knew him already, of course. David is like Norm from "Cheers" when it comes to school. He walks in and they all call his name. It's kind of wonderful, actually.
I hugged Anna at the door before she walked out, asking again if she was sure I couldn't walk her to the bus stop. I got an eyeroll and a firm "MOM. NO." as my reply, and then my beautiful girl was gone, walking down the block and into a whole new year.
An hour later, I walked her brother to the corner, his hand warm in mine, our arms swinging in time with our steps. He may be the only fourth grade boy willing to hold his Mom's hand. Next year, when he's in middle school, I have to weigh how much I want to do that with how much flack he'll take from his schoolmates for it. As a child with autism, he's already a target. I need to back off, and let him be a little more grown-up, I know.
The bus pulled up, he got on, and we waved as it pulled away. My neighbor just put her little boy on the bus to kindergarten, and the tears were tracking down her cheeks. I put an arm around her, and I said "Oh honey. Me, too. Me, too." I cry every year. Every. Single. Year.
They're growing up.
Despite my entirely selfish need to keep them close in my arms, they're growing up and moving on and getting a life that won't always include me in the biggest way. It's exactly what they're supposed to do.
And again, I wonder....what kind of ironic cosmic deity decided to give us this overwhelming love and unrelenting lifelong need to protect and shelter and then gives us the responsibility of seeing that our children can operate just fine without us someday?
I guess I just have to give up and trust that they're going to be fine, based on who they are, and the tools I give them or point them to or they dig up themselves to navigate this crazy path we call life. And just like the first day of kindergarten for them both, oh-not-so-many-years-ago, I have to keep myself from climbing in the car and following the school bus.
I have to let them go. Let them take that first big step up into their new world, and wait patiently for them to jump back down out of it on occasion and tell me all about it.
And here I am, waving as they pull away from the curb, hoping I did the part of my job that I fight my every instinct to do.