I sent zj off to first grade last week, and honestly, I expected it to be no big deal for either of us. Although I was a blubbering mess when he started kindergarten last year, I really thought that after sending him to school for a whole year, this would be easy peasy. For me, anyway.
If anything, though, this hit me even harder. Kindergarten can be a one-off, maybe, but first grade seems so... real. So permanent. Like, we are going to be doing this school business for the next 12 years kind of permanent.
In my defense, zj had quite a few milestones in about a 48 hour period, and I believe that all those things together is what caused my meltdown about how my baby is growing up and growing away and pretty soon he'll be in college, then he'll get married and have kids of his own and then...
Anyway, in addition to starting first grade, he also lost his first tooth:
and he earned his yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do:
Maybe I could have handled any one of these things individually, but all piled on top of each other like they were, it just made me realize BOOM! He's growing up right under my nose, and there's nothing I can do to stop that.
He came home from school the first day, and I immediately started peppering him with questions: " How was it?" "Did you like your teacher?" "How many kids in your class do you know already?" "Who sits beside you?" "What did you have for lunch?" "What was your favorite part of the day?" You know, like Mamas sometimes do. He answered a few of my questions, then sighed and said "Don't worry, Mama, it was fine. I liked it. Can I go upstairs and play now?"
And just like that, he grew up.
Really what I've been noticing lately isn't one particular thing - it's more a series of little things. He doesn't seek or need my approval for a cool picture he drew quite as often as he did before. He is beginning to have interests that aren't mine, and friends I didn't choose. He knows things I don't. He likes things others have introduced him to. He's slowly becoming autonomous, and it is such a slow progression that I hardly see it. Until I do see it, and then my heart breaks - just a little - for the baby he isn't any more. At the same time my heart sings - just a little - for the young man he's becoming.
It's absolutely terrifying, knowing that the more I send him out into the world to interact with other people, the more he is becoming his own person, separate from me. Part of me wants to bundle him up and keep him right here beside me for as long as possible, so that I know for a fact that what he hears and sees and does on a daily basis are all based on things I know to be true. But a bigger part of me - a braver part - knows that by letting him experience the world through his own eyes and ears and senses, and being there to guide him when he has questions, I can still play an important role - the most important role - in what kind of person he grows into.
Yeah, see? Emotional, babbling mess right here.
These are the things that keep me up at night, wondering if I'm doing enough, teaching enough, guiding enough so that when he is out in the world without me he will make good decisions and be a good and kind person to those around him.
I think I've said this before - the hard part about parenting is that there is no way to know if you're doing it right until you know for sure that you're doing it wrong. There are not monthly performance evaluations, no quarterly raises for a job well done, no counseling sessions when opportunities to improve exist. And although there are books and manuals - so, so many of them! - about how to raise kids, they all contradict each other in so many ways that it's impossible to take any one of them seriously.
So I will keep doing what I know to be right, and make the rest of it up as I go along.
And I will sincerely hope that I'm getting some of it right, most of the time.