“You can go now. I’ll be fine.”
I drew in a sharp breath and internally cursed at myself for forgetting the most important thing on this hot August morning: sunglasses. Sure, it would have been great to block the blinding sun from my eyes, but more importantly, I needed them to mask the tears that had been lodged in my throat for a full 24 hours.
Ryan was starting kindergarten.
(As I attempted to write, “Ryan was starting kindergarten,” my fingers typed “preschool” instead. Even my hands can’t accept this new reality.)
Not only was he starting kindergarten, but he was incredibly ready for it. He was excited to make new friends and see how nice his teacher would be. He is ready to learn how to read and how to play the instruments in music class. He wants to compare packed lunches with his classmates and perform his classroom job to perfection.
“You can go now. I’ll be fine.” The words ring in my head as he looks not at me, but toward the door to his school, anxious for his adventure to begin. He’s ready to enter the school and a new stage of life. A whole new world with all sorts of influences and experiences that both thrill me and scare the hell out of me.
“Of course you will be,” I respond with one more quick kiss on the top of his head. “You’ll be great.”
We separate; he is moving forward and I am moving backward. This is natural. This is parenting. It’s strange how it seems to go against every instinct I have, though.
Three hours later, I have bought a new sweater and had a massage (both with gift certificates I’d had for months but hadn’t used because I was home all day, every day with my son). I’ve stopped at Ryan’s favorite candy store to buy him a chocolate dinosaur on a stick. I’ve made lunch plans with a friend.
And I’ve either cried or tried very hard not to cry through most of it. Do these tears come from pride? Sadness? Disbelief? Fear? I can’t be sure.
I pick Ryan up and he tells me all about his day, full of art and letters and games he created at recess with new friends. He is happy. All my weeks of preparing him for this, talking about his new school and his new schedule, has paid off. He is adjusting well.
Maybe I’ve forgotten to prepare myself, though, because by the end of the first week, I’m still lost in my own fog. I’m usually a pretty busy and motivated person who sort of pings from *this chore* to *that errand* to *this writing assignment* to *that dinner prep,* but now I find myself staring a lot. Staring at my hands, say, or the ceiling fan. Staring at the black screen of my iPhone, wondering what on Earth I am supposed to be doing all day.
I know the answer. I’m supposed to be writing a book. I’ve asked my husband for this year. With our only child in school full time, I could very conceivably re-enter the workforce that I left when he was a toddler. I could, but I don’t want to. I want to write.
I want to write, but I can’t seem to. It’s now more than two weeks into kindergarten and I still haven’t opened the computer file that contains the few sporadic pages I have written for the book.
I’m a “stay-at-home mom” who does a whole lot of “staying” but very little “moming” during the day. I’m a writer who should be working on a book but is instead sitting here writing about how I’m not working on a book.
I’m afraid. I’m afraid to dive back into the painful memories I intend to write about, and I’m afraid to fail miserably at it. Luckily, I suppose, I’m even more afraid not to try.
Ryan is growing and taking his first real steps into his own life. Just because he walked into that school with his chin up and his eyes forward doesn’t mean he wasn’t scared. It just means he was brave enough to go anyway.
It’s time for me to grow, too. To take those first steps down my own fresh path.
It’s time to open up the document and write. Or, at the very least, stare at the blank page for a while and see what comes of it.
Ryan, it’s ok. You can go now. I’ll be fine.