Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An Emotional Ambush

It’s funny how your emotions can catch you totally off guard.

That happened to me today at 8:30 this morning. I took my son to school to get him tested for Kindergarten. It’s the same private school that my daughter has attended since she was in Kindergarten. Although I had not stepped foot in the Lower School for three years, everything felt familiar. The display cabinets with colorful sculptures created by the students, the glass walls of the Computer and Science Labs that allow you to view all that goes on inside, the front desk and staff, the glorious library…everything just felt as if we had never moved on.

While I adore the school and love all it has to offer my children, I’ve been dreading the possibility of driving across the river six-to-eight times a day, going to two different campuses with two totally different school schedules. Truthfully, I’ve been finding myself being a little selfish with my time, not wanting to spend anymore of it chauffeuring than I already do. I’ve even caught myself hoping that he won’t get accepted so I can, without regret, send him to our wonderful local elementary school, complete with a bus that would deliver him to school and bring him home safely. A school that, should I need to be on campus, is less than five minutes up the road, not three counties away.

So that has been my mindset since we started the application process in the Fall - that this whole Kindergarten thing is no big deal. Besides, he’s my second born. With my daughter, I welled up as she went off to preschool, Kindergarten and even Middle School. When she was younger, I lingered in the hallways and parking lots, coming to terms with the fact that she was growing up. With my son, I’ve had more of a been-there, done-that attitude toward school, not feeling like I’m losing my baby to the world.

So today when we arrived at the Lower School, I chatted for a moment with the receptionist, showed my son some of the artwork in the cases, and pointed out the cool Science and Computer Labs as well as the splendid library. The lady who was to administer the test came out, introduced herself, and made small talk with my son. When it was time to enter the testing room, my son smothered me with hugs and kisses, walked into the room, waved and cheerfully said, “Bye, Mom!”

While heading toward the parking lot, I smiled about the sweetness of the whole scenario and checked my watch to see how much time I had until I needed to pick him up. A moment later, I was back in my car, heading to the Middle School campus to drop something off for my daughter and write a silly note on her locker. It was there, as I pulled into the Middle School parking lot, that I was blindsided by an emotional smack! A large knot instantly formed in my throat and tears began to pool in my eyes.


Where did this come from?

I’ve been totally cool with this whole Kindergarten thing. Happy actually. Excited for this time to come.

Haven’t I?

I sat there in the parking lot, composing myself before entering the school. Still overwhelmed by the onslaught of emotions that I was unaware I possessed, I began trying to figure out the where and the why of this reaction.

Have I actually missed that place? Am I melancholy, not exhilarated by this pending milestone? I’ve anticipated Kindergarten and truly do look forward to all the ways he’ll grow and learn, all the exciting experiences that await him…yet this is so bittersweet.

Gripping the steering wheel and releasing a puff of air, I realized that I did miss Lower School after all. I have had wonderful experiences as a parent there, and I can imagine many more with my son.

And these milestones that punctuate the fact that my children are growing up are bittersweet, even if I am excited for their next steps. All along, my own selfishness, the dread about my time in the car, back and forth all day, had overshadowed these feelings.

Having my self-centered fog lifted, I became conscious that I was waxing nostalgic. Because I realized that as I observed those familiar stomping grounds and pointed them out to my prospective Kindergarten son, I saw the ghost of a little girl who used to walk those same halls. Talk to those same staff members. Have science and computer classes in those rooms. Took utter pleasure in the solitude of the library…

And now she’s a teenager.

A teenager.

And my son is going to Kindergarten.

I’m about to send him down the same swift-moving path my daughter has already trod.

And it feels like yesterday.

And I miss them already.

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