I held him in my arms, his tiny body curled up on my chest, his ear on my familiar heartbeat. Born three weeks early, Quinn weighed just six pounds, but he never went to the NICU. He was strong; small and mighty like his Mama.
I looked around the park playground at the big kids - kindergarteners, first graders. They were huge. As a first-time mom, I borrowed worries from the future and dreaded the day Quinn would be toddling around that playground amongst those big kids. I imagined him getting knocked down and trampled, and I had myself a full-on (yet invisible to others) post-partum panic attack right there on the park bench. Though I knew someday Q would be one of those big kids, that day seemed like a lifetime away. Back then, the days felt like years and blended into blurry, bloodshot nights. Back then, five years might as well have been five hundred.
Then I blinked.
And five years went by just like that. Yes, the saying is true – the days are long, but the years are short.
Now this guy...
... has turned into this guy.
Look at that face. OMG, I can't even. I think maybe no one has ever been more excited to start kindergarten ever.
In his anticipation, the questions fired away daily. Who would be there? Who would his teacher be? What would his classroom look like? Could he bring Snowball (his beloved stuffed bunny)? What would he eat for lunch? What if he got hungry before lunch? Could he have a snack? My brain reflected his excitement and anxiety.
As a newbie Kinder-mom, I had no concrete answers for him except that he would make lots of friends, love his teacher, have an awesome classroom, not need Snowball until he got home, and be well-fed. (Luckily, I was right about all these. #FTW )
We're fortunate because we live just a few blocks away from the elementary school, so we can walk instead of dealing with finding parking or the drop-off line that weaves through the narrow neighborhood streets. We don't even have to cross a street to get there.
The first day was a family walk, with Daddy keeping up the conversation so Quinn wouldn't hear my voice crack, and with little Reid in tow wearing his backpack just like his big brother. I held it together. I didn't cry. My voice and face matched Q's excitement. I told myself that after three years of preschool, a tearful kindergarten drop-off would not be necessary. We were used to this. Fist bump, blow it up, we got this.
The four of us entered his new classroom together where parents were invited to participate in a couple of small First Day projects to help the children (and parents) transition. We found Q's cubby and his place at the Orange Team's table. We traced his hand, cut it out, wrote his name on it, and posted it on the board, as instructed. We found his assigned blue square on the rainbow carpet. Then all the children nestled in to hear the story, "The Kissing Hand."
Then the floodgates opened.
Honestly! Have you heard this story? It's a beautiful and heart-wrenching tale about a child who’s just starting school. His mother kisses the palm of his hand and tells him to put it to his cheek whenever he feels lonely. Oh, for f**ks sake! Why not read The Velveteen Rabbit and Old Yeller too, just for funsies? Rookie mistake, I didn't bring tissues.
When the story was over, it was time for the parents to say goodbye. Q ran to me from his blue square on the rainbow carpet. I gave him my biggest smile and hoped he wouldn't notice my watery eyes. Q gave me his best trying-to-be-brave-and-not-cry smile and hugged me fiercely. Then he mustered all of his confidence and courage and disappeared back into the swarm of big kids. The same big kids I thought would trample him as a baby.
There he goes.
I wonder how quickly the next five years will fly by. No, wait, I don't want to know.
Two-year-old Reid's new favorite thing to do is pretend he's the one going to kindergarten, just to antagonize Quinn (because making your brother mad is an Olympic sport in our house).
Reid marches around wearing his Minions backpack and proclaiming, "You not go to kindergarten, Quinn. I go to kindergarten! I turning six!" Which infuriates Quinn to no end, but to which I reply to Reid, "Yes, sweetie, someday you will start kindergarten and turn six."
And by "someday," I mean any minute now. Slow down, kiddo.