Last year, the first day of school felt heavy. Anxious. Joyous. It was a life shift for me and the tiny human. Though, said child handled it with grace and unflappable confidence. I cried in my car.
Last year, watching my “baby” walk into school with his overly large bookbag felt like I was leaving him in unknown territory. We had left the cocoon of the woman who had cared for him his entire life, up until that point. He was no longer a baby. Or a toddler. Or a preschooler. He was a kid. A big kid, wearing a bookbag, marching into uncharted land.
My mouth proclaimed that I worried he wasn’t ready. That I hadn’t prepared him for this new environment. The truth is, I wasn’t prepared. I had no idea how he would be treated. Did he find his way to his classroom okay? Was he well fed? Happy?
We both acclimated quickly. The new routine becoming familiar. Him learning names. Me learning faces. Adjusting to communication styles of teachers. How to handle new social situations. Slowly, we created the map of this new land.
Four days ago, much to the joy of Moose, we marched back into that building. Only this time, there was no apprehension. No anxiety. Only joy.
All cards on the table, my kid is a nerd with a capital ‘N’. He gets it from me. He has pestered me all summer about school. The crescendo coming about a month ago when his questions turned to demands of timelines. He was ready. Each week the countdown required revision for him. School, for him, is exciting. Empowering. Fun.
The morning of his first day, for the first time in the entirety of his life, I had to moderate his morning energy. He lost interest in finishing breakfast. Tired of waiting for me to pull out his uniform, opting to rush into his room and throw on anything he could get his hands on. Groaned at me telling him to wait and finish his food. More than once I heard “but Mommy, I just want to go to school!” First day photographs were a chore he endured. A checkpoint he knew he must surpass to gain access to what he so desired- admission to his new classroom. I buried myself in the delight of witnessing his limitless excitement. I took photos and stole hugs. I walked him to the door, steeling myself against possible tears. Mine, not his.
The tears never came. Instead, warm familiarity filled my chest. Teachers greeted him by name. Requested hugs. Complimented his shoes. Inquired about his summer. As soon as our feet crossed the threshold of his classroom, children’s voices filled the air, elated to see him.
It’s amazing to me how unfamiliarity can morph so elegantly to habit. Comfort.
I write a lot about the adjustments in my life over the last five years. But this process can be seen for years before that. In the evolution of relationships. My own school years. Even portions of the city- those that felt foreign and scary are now mundane and enjoyable. At this point in my life, I relish the shifts. Try to remind myself that the unknown is neither good nor bad. My brain has yet to accept this assertion.
When I reflect on the stages of my life, I see the things I thought I couldn’t survive. Yet, here I sit. I think of the days, even in recent memory, which I thought I may not make it through. I did. I’m not sure why my psyche has yet to rationalize this trend. It continues to place the odds against me. Predict failure with no data to support it.
The thing about brains- especially anxious ones– is that they are trying to protect you somehow by focusing on the deemed failures. Staking a permanent checkpoint at each mistake. Mine, for instance, likes to replay every time I was less than the human I want to be. The cross words I spoke. The exasperated tone. It compiles all of these moments into a slide show to present why I failed at marriage. The evidence to predict my sub-par mothering skills. The snippets of cruel words said to me, as proof that I am, in fact, built to be alone.
All in all, my brain can be very stupid.
This attempt at assessing a predictable, albeit negative, outcome is a protection maneuver gone awry. For the next stage of parenting, the coming phase of my relationship, my business- they are all unknown- therefore inherently scary. My mind has decided that we must fortify the walls. Prepare for heartbreak. It thinks, if we brace for such an outcome, it won’t hurt. It has no idea how to anticipate success. Because that means hope. Potential. Possibility of pain.
I have learned, no matter the intensity in which I overthink, I cannot stave off heartbreak. Will not side-step mistakes.
In the reflection of uncertainty and fear transforming to pleasure and contentment, I am continuing to forge ahead. Allow my heart more hope and my brain less prognostication. Mostly, I am grateful for the perspective shifts the milestones of motherhood provide. Reflection, and grace, will continue to be a necessity. For my brain can still be stupid and get mired down by pessimistic predictions. Luckily, the joy doesn’t abate because a few grey clouds roll in from time to time.