A few days ago I tip-toed up the carpeted steps of our home. They tend to creak, a sound not unlike a clap of thunder in the dead of night which it happened to be, and so I carefully placed each foot — left, right, skip a stair — until I reached the top. I heard the sound of even breathing before my eyes adjusted enough to make out their forms in the darkness.
There was my daughter cocooned in blankets, arms and legs tucked beneath her, a stuffed animal under one arm. I blew her a kiss before crossing the hall to my son’s room. My children are opposite in every way and this truth extends even to their chosen sleep positions. I found Anders with arms and legs extended to the four corners of the room, his blankets in a heap on the floor.
I picked them up and covered him. He is a much heavier sleeper than his sister and so I risked brushing his hair away from his forehead before padding quietly from the room and back downstairs where my luggage awaited me. My day would consist of boarding a cross-country flight — the beginning of a 5-day business trip. Anders’ day, for the very first time, would be spent in a kindergarten classroom.
If you have children, I need not explain the guilt I felt about missing this milestone. I was leaving behind my pre-schooler and would be returning to an elementary school student. It was only one day, one single day on either side of which were hundreds and hundreds of days which were spent or would be spent together, but it was this one I was, am, convinced he would remember.
I am told he didn’t hesitate. That he pulled on his backpack and almost strutted into the classroom, that he put away his things and took a place in the chair labeled with his name.
“He didn’t even look back,” my husband said when I called as soon as my plane touched down thousands of miles from home.
I felt relieved, but also sad. Sad to have missed the moment, but also to not have been missed in the moment. So much of parenting is smiling through tears.