Friday, September 13, 2013

// A Mother’s Fears

This column was originally printed in The Hamiltonian's September issue.

A Mother’s Fears On The First Day Of Pre-School
How did this day come so soon? The first day of pre-school.

It is my son’s first day of school… and mine too. It is my first time leaving one of my offspring to be taught things by someone else.

Just a few years ago my son was a beautiful, cone-headed, 7.2 pounder newborn… tiny, healthy, and helpless laying in a hospital bassinet.

Now he shyly and curiously walks towards the school’s door. His backpack full of empty folders that he does not know what they are for, a lunch he probably will not eat, extra clothes he will most likely need as he forgets, or is too nervous, to use the tiny toilet within the strange room that is his first-ever classroom.

All I can think is: how did this happen? I did not see myself here so soon.

My gut is turning. Butterflies flying. Tears well up and block my vision. I’m tempted to take him home. Cancel the whole thing. We’ll be back next year. Maybe.

I am sure that in his three-year-old brain, my son is processing the same emotions. It is funny how we can feel the same things for completely different reasons.

He may feel scared when he does not see me or when he does not recognize any faces around him. It is expected, of course.

For me it is different.

Whatever is ahead of us is unknown, as it is with every big milestone in life. The unknown, regardless of the situation, can be slightly frightening.

Personally, I cautiously fear that someone will exclude him. That he will be hurt. This is good practice for both of us. Perhaps one or more of his classmates will reject him for silly things like not using the potty all the time, for not knowing how to use a pencil, or for being too enthusiastic at inappropriate times. His feelings will probably be hurt. Yet this is an opportunity for us to prepare for a future when bigger rejections come as they always do. He will have to learn how to cope with them and I to let him cope.

Pre-school. It is such a silly time to think about this. So silly that it almost seems melodramatic. Yet it is the biggest milestone to date for this mother to be letting go of the grip that my first-born has had on me and on my heart. It is the three-year-old child’s equivalent to driving off in a car on his own for the first time, going away to college, or getting married. In all situations they are headed for things that are out of the control of a good-intentioned mother like me.

For the past three years my son has had no other stronger influence on his personality, behavior, and attitude than his father and me. Suddenly, a kind, loving, and patient teacher has swept in and stood in her place next to us as another role model for my impressionable little one.

Frightening, I tell you.

Lastly, what could be more terrifying than knowing he has embarked on this journey called growing up? All this time he has been at home, being a little boy, getting out of bed when he wished to, eating (mostly) at his leisure, not having a single care in the world.

This year, he begins slowly learning how to step outside of himself. It is pre-school after all, so he will learn simple things like how to follow directions from superiors who are not his parents, how to share with others that are not related to him, and how to curb his wishes in order to adapt to a schedule.

These are all simple skills that will establish in him how to choose the “better-good” even when it’s not necessarily the “personal-good.” These are all basic things that one must learn in order to grow. Well into adulthood some people have not mastered any of it.

Maybe the biggest lesson he and I will learn out of today will be to bravely face our fears. Parting from each other at the classroom door may be the scariest thing that either of us has had to do in all of my son’s short years and yet it may be the thing that makes us a little bit better humans from here on out.

“You can’t fall if you don’t climb. But there’s no joy in living your whole life on the ground.” – Unknown

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