If you told me two years ago that I’d be dreading the day my son was away at school all day, I’d have thought you were crazy. The idea of a break was a far-off, magical sounding notion.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my son more than anything from the moment he was born, but he was exhausting in a way I’d never fathomed babies could be. It was constant need, from sun up to sun down, and many of the hours in between. I didn’t have time to do anything without being stressed about the baby needing something — I could barely even think straight. I was so tired and overwhelmed and all I wanted was a break. The thought of him being in someone else’s care for a while sounded glorious. Even when he started part-time daycare, I couldn’t wait until kindergarten started.
Until we got through that rough patch, that is.
Now at 3-and-a-half, he’s utterly delightful, slightly independent (at least compared to the baby days), and being his mom doesn’t leave me in that constantly stressed and frazzled state anymore. Suddenly kindergarten (which is still two years away) is something I loathe and dread. Not only will he be away for more hours of the day than he’s at home, I will no longer feel like his primary caregiver, even though I know I am.
I won’t always be the one he turns to when he wants or needs something. I won’t be fixing grilled cheese at lunchtime so we can sit and eat it together. I won’t be soaking up extra snuggles at odd moments of the day just because I can. He’ll be at school and activities and wanting to play with friends. Weekends will be rare chunks of daytime to spend together, bet he’ll probably want little to do with boring old mom. In about 30 seconds he’ll be driving off to college.
But it’s not solely the sadness and nostalgia of my baby growing up that leaves me blue and aching. It’s the fact that I’ll have to let go and put all my trust into a stranger for even more hours of the day and week. The amount of trust and bravery it takes to let someone else care for your child is unfathomable, whether it’s from the time they’re an infant or not until they’re ready to start school. I don’t know why the idea of kindergarten and school gets to me more than daycare, but it does.
Now this isn’t a new concept for me, but just how much trust it really takes hit me when my son returned to preschool this year, in a new class, with new teachers and new friends. The bottom of my stomach dropped to a whole new basement level when I picked him up from his first day. On the ride home, in the midst of incessant, excited chatter, he told me just how much he loved Goldfish crackers and they were so good and he wants more.
This may not cause panic in most parents, but my son is allergic to Goldfish. (He has a gluten, dairy, and soy allergy.)
I immediately bombarded him with questions, trying to hide my panic, be mature, and not extrapolate this situation to unnecessary proportions. (Fortunately he had only eaten one cracker and had a small reaction that didn’t require a doctor’s visit.) I was confident everyone was comfortable with his allergies. I even felt (and feel) confident that HE was and is aware of what he can and cannot eat. For the first time in four years of “first days,” I didn’t cover him and his things with stickers reminding everyone of his allergies.
My first instinct was to feel guilty that I’d dropped the ball, but really I felt proud of myself that I wasn’t freaking out. I didn’t cover him in Post-it notes saying not to let him stick his fingers in the outlets or run out in the middle of the street at playtime. I didn’t hassle anyone about their CPR skills or what to do in case of a fire. His allergies are just one more thing I have to let go of when it comes to control — to have trust and faith and confidence that someone else can handle any given situation.
Surely I’m not a perfect caregiver — I can’t prevent falls or accidents, scrapes or bruises. I can only do my very best to keep him safe and happy, and having the trust in someone else to do the same is just another part of growing up in terms of my parenting. I wish I could be his sole protector for the rest of his life, but I know that not only do others need to step into this role throughout his life, I know that long before I’m ready, he’ll be taking over that role for himself.More On