We here in Seattle are rugged individualists. We do not start school the day after Labor Day. No sir, we start two days after Labor Day. I secretly believe it is to give the parents an extra day to recover from attending Bumbershoot. Maybe it's to give everyone a chance to get back from their last ditch camping trip of the summer. Or maybe it's to give us this spare day between holiday and routine to speculate and ruminate and drive each other crazy.
My jBird has proclaimed herself the "luckiest girl in the world" because she gets a locker in her new school, because her mom bought her the tackiest shirt on Earth to wear for back to school because it was deemed "cool" by that fascinating eight-year-old rubric, and because she gets to ride the bus this year. The Hooligan is more quiet about his inner-workings, preferring instead to give involved descriptions of space machinery. But today he told me that "School is awesome because there are so many possibilities." They are ready to go. They've been counting down the days for a month now. Tomorrow is the day. Today is the day they will eat popcorn for breakfast and watch too much TV and wrestle with each other in great, giggling, tumbling chaos that spills into every room of the house and out in the yard. Today they will get on each other's nerves and holler and then hug. Today is summer. Tomorrow is not.
Tomorrow they will go and learn the geography of a new school. The odd chemistry of making new friends. The arithmetic of when to sit quietly, when to stand in line, when to run and play. The poetry of being on their own amid a crowd of friendly strangers. Tomorrow when they dress it will be for school. When they eat breakfast it will be with an eye toward getting them through the day. When they step out the door, it will be into the unknown. Tomorrow they are going back to school.
Tomorrow I am going back to school, too. I will have to learn the silences of my house. I will have to regain the trust that the things they've learned that are far more important than reading and writing will stick with them as they navigate their days. I will have to resign myself again to giving them away to others for what is the best part of their days. That I will only see them sleepy in the mornings, worn out in the afternoons, and recharging on the weekends for the next several months. I will have to remind myself that this is for a greater cause. I will have to remember how to go about my days without stepping on midday Legos, stopping to make lunch for three, listening to the non-stop narration of two little lives. I will re-learn how to paint by myself, write by myself, eat by myself, clean by myself, shop by myself, even go to the bathroom by myself without the inevitable urgent conversation through the door. I have a lot to learn.
I am glad to learn it, though. These small people given to my charge are ready, so ready, for this next step. Their little wings are wet with newness, their fawn legs are wobbly but strong. They are thrilled with learning, with stepping out, with independence, with challenge and with the chaos of all those new people to meet. They gobble with their senses and absorb new knowledge as if through their skin. Who would I be if I were to deny them that? If I kept them babies in my nest and squashed their first attempts at flight with my feathered, motherly ass? I talk big. I'm all bravery and centered and selfless in my speech. I'm terrified. I always am. I resolutely do not think of the worst possibilities and smile brightly and say "It will be so much fun!" And indeed, it will. For all of us. I crave a quiet cup of coffee, uninterrupted time to think. And yet I quake inside. Have I done enough to prepare them? Will they be all right?
Of course they will. It is they who have taught my wobbling fawn legs how to walk like a mother. It is they who have helped to unfurl the wings of my heart to soar higher than I ever thought imaginable. It is they who have prepared me for this. This incremental letting go. This watching two distinct people who carry a little bit of me in their DNA to walk around, to succeed, to go further bit by bit away. It is they who have taught me that I have no control, only love and fragments of my own experience to share with them. They will be fine. I will be fine. Tomorrow, school starts for all of us.
Today, I will watch them play and enjoy our spare day.
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