I remember, a million years ago when my boys were little, standing outside the doors to our school watching terrified children tear out from their teacher’s arms and run back to their parents. I remember watching grown women wail and gnash their teeth as their firstborns entered their classrooms, as if the door posts were smeared in lamb’s blood or something.
I remember not understanding any of this song-and-dance rountine, because it had never happened to me.
More years ago than I am comfortable counting, I walked my firstborn son to his first day of kindergarten. We reached the school property, in front of the school right before we came to the playground and line-up, and it was at this point that my son turned to me, all of five years and only a very few months, and said, “Just kiss my cheek, momma; I’ll take it from here.” He accepted his kiss, turned, and marched himself solo into the beginning of his own little life.
I don’t even remember my second son entering kindergarten, he ran so fast away from me and into his new big-boy classroom. I have photographic evidence of his adorable haircut and the little Hawaiian shirt he absolutely *had* to wear that day, but there was no hugging, no kissing, no goodbyes.
I alway took this to mean that in some way, I had failed them. All those other kids were so attached to their parents, and mine couldn’t get far enough from me, fast enough. Of course, first grade came soon enough, and middle school after that, and then I really learned what “detachment childing” meant, but for all of my mumbles and eyerolls at those weeping new mothers and those wailing young children, I envied them.
I envied their ability to process that situation – that very hard, new, weird, uncomfortable position of sending your child into the care of someone you scarcely know, for their betterment – the way that seemed most natural to them.
My kids would have disowned me if they saw me crying on their playground. My oldest would have seen it as trying to hold him back from college (“Mom, I’m never going to get into Harvard if you stand their bawling like a three year old at admissions”) and my middle son would have fretted that I was coming between him and all the chicks.
I naturally assumed that when I got my daughter, she’d get me. She’d understand. Girls love differently than boys and she would have as much trouble stepping on that bus as I would have putting her on it, right?
I saw her little arm shoot up mere moments before the bus pulled away with my last little baby child inside of it. She was so busy finding a seat next to a first grader, introducing her little self to the bus driver, and experiencing her day, her life, on her own terms, that she almost forgot her mom.
And I thank god that my children are able to do that. I don’t know what makes them so confident and secure in their own abilities that they can just live without hesitation, but I envy them that. And I know without any doubt that they love me, but maybe they don’t necessarily need me all the time, and I think that means that maybe, just maybe, I am doing right by them.