It is fair to say that I can be a rather emotional person. I cry at a lot of things. Particularly sentimental stuff. Give me a video compellation of soldiers coming home or grandparents meeting their first grandchild and I’m a mess. Those defining life moments really get me. So, I figured when my little boy went off to school for the first time, I would be pretty emotional about it. My first born would be growing up way too fast for my liking and he would walk off into the classroom while I curled up in a blubbering mess, a montage of his baby photos playing in my head. But the time has come, he’s going to preschool, and I’ve got nothing when it comes to tears.
You see, had he been of the age to go to school a year or two ago, the above situation probably would have played out in reality. My emotions would have taken over and I would have been the mother standing by the front gate long after the door to the school had closed, tissue pressed to my face. But after the last year and a half, I’m all cried out. With everything going on in the world and the effects those events have had on my home, my emotional bank is empty. I’ve got nothing left. And when it comes to spending 24/7 with my child, although I love him dearly, I am done. I’m bored, he’s bored. We both need a break. So, no. I’m not sad at all that he is headed off to school.
For the briefest of moments, I had a pang of mom-guilt about this. Not even a pang, really. More like a pinch. Social media is filled with moms during this time of year tearing up over their baby’s first day. We are led to believe that a good mom, a mom who cares enough about their little one, is devastated by the inevitable passing of time and the aging into this period of school busses and packed lunches. And that’s not me at all. But shouldn’t it be? Because what kind of mom wants to get away from her child?
Me. This mom, right here.
Am I nervous? Yes. I’m nervous for him. This is a big step. And having been removed from most social contact with other kids for the majority of his life, I don’t really know how he’s going to handle the situation. I want it to go well for him. I want him to skip out of that classroom at the end of the school day, so excited about what he learned and his new friends. And I am so nervous that it might not have that happily ever after ending.
Am I stressed? Absolutely. There is so much unknown in the world right now. So much can’t be guaranteed. I wish someone could tell me that I’m doing the right thing and promise that nothing will happen. That this scary virus won’t make an appearance at his school and that my child will be safe from infection. But that can’t happen. He’ll wear a mask and he’s gotten really good at keeping one on. But what happens at snack time, or during that brief moment when it slips from his cute little nose? Would it be more ideal if there was a vaccine for him now? Of course. I would feel much more comfortable sending him off to school. But there isn’t, and I know I’m taking a risk. So yes, very stressed. Thankfully, where we live there isn’t that big of an outbreak and the school has a good plan in place to monitor the situation daily. I’m trying to tell myself as much as I can that the benefits for my child in going to school are currently greater than the risks. And this bouncing around with all the other worries in my head has led to quite an elevated level of stress.
But am I sad? No.
More than anything, I’m ready. My toddler going off to preschool means that three days a week, I get an entire morning where I’m not chasing after two boys. Where I don’t have to play peacekeeper. Where I can devote time completely to my younger one, a luxury his big brother had in spades and he rarely gets. Three days a week, during my little one’s nap time, I will finally get some time to myself. Time to write. Time to read. Time to relax just enough so that I can continue to hold on to a small piece of my sanity. In short, I will get some alone time, something that has been more dream than reality throughout this pandemic. And for that, I am very much ready.
The past year and a half has been rough. Really rough. I have been drained completely of energy and emotion. My family, along with so many others, has been locked in a spiraling, suffocating sameness that we desperately need a break from. So, while there are certainly reasons he shouldn’t go, my child is starting preschool. And I am not sad about it.
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