“Bye, mom. I love you,” my son smiled as he turned and quietly walked down the hall. I’d just dropped him off late at school. He woke up not feeling well and we’d decided he could stay home for a bit. Now it was about noon and he was feeling much better. I watched him walk down the hallway, before turning to head for his class. His body’s grown and for a second I catch a glimpse of an almost teenager, no longer a boy. He’s only ten now, but will turn eleven this summer.
I’m struck by emotion, as I watch him walk by what once was his kindergarten classroom and the hallway where he spent his first, second and third grade years. This emotion overwhelms me and I’m completely taken by surprise. As I walk out to my car, I hear laughter coming from the playground. The reality hits me, that in a few short months he’ll no longer be walking the halls of this school, but will be finding his way through the winding halls of middle school.
I know this emotion is common to anyone whose child’s made the transition from their early schooling into the middle school years. But for me, there is a bittersweetness. When Jared was in first grade his little sister was born. She, Sofia, has brought such a joy to our family and our lives. Sofia was born with Down syndrome.
Jared absolutely loves his little sister. When we told him he was going to have a baby sister, not a brother, he responded immediately by informing us he was thrilled. “I really wanted a baby sister, mama,” he said. “I prayed for one.” After being the only child for so long, I knew he was excited to welcome any little sibling, but he insisted a baby sister was just what he ordered.
Leaving his school today, reminded me of the many times I’ve been unable to be there for him. It wasn’t always that way. I was a regular helper in his preschool and absolutely loved every moment, watching him make new friends and take part in all that preschoolers do. Being a part of that was what I wanted. I’d resigned from my job to be a full time mom and loved being able to be the one to read to him, teaching him his letters, teaching him to read, singing silly songs and just having fun. His kindergarten year was much the same, with me helping in the classroom. I enjoyed getting to see him grow, while meeting new friends in this new environment called school.
When Sofia was born, things changed. Any mom with a new young baby, I am sure, has some kind of similar experience, not being able to participate fully in her older kids’ school lives. With Sofia, there were some other concerns. She, thankfully, was very healthy, but we were cautioned to take care and keep away from the germs. We did. We also had therapy appointments to keep. It was important to us to keep our lives as normal as possible and I’m pretty sure we succeeded. Things simply are normal. Jared’s childhood has been filled with lots of family time, time playing with friends, some sports and down time, too. The only thing that changed was my presence in his school.
Watching him walk away, I wasn’t prepared to feel so much, so deeply, especially on a mundane day like today. It’s not the last day of school, not even the last week. I realize that I can’t get that lost time back. I’ve done my best. I just hope that he knows how much he means to me, how much I love him, even if I’ve not been able to be there. He’s my son. And he’s no longer a little boy. Maybe that’s why I was hit with so much emotion. His words were spoken so warmly, with the maturity of one growing into a man. His voice was filled with tenderness, as if he was saying, “It’s okay, mom. I know. I know.” It’s a welcome reminder, one that is much needed. I take this bit of grace, held out to me and clutch it closely to my heart, where I’ll keep it for years to come.