Our oldest son is in fourth grade at a private Montessori school. We know all the parents, all the kids, all the kids’ siblings, everything there is to know. Our youngest has come with me to pick up and drop off and every school BBQ and picnic and event. He went to kindergarten with most of these kids’ siblings, he plays baseball and YMCA soccer and flag football with all of them.
So when he started first grade this year at the same school as big brother, I didn’t even give it a thought. Old hat, I said.
He was super excited when he woke up, although he kept telling me he was embarrassed because he didn’t know ALL the kids. Coming from our uber-confident, I-own-every-place-I-walk-into kind of kid, we teased him a little bit and told him he’d be running the place by the end of the day.
I walked him to the door and he was welcomed by no less than five different kids right out of the gate and his sweet teacher. I turned to walk back to my car and snuck a peek at him as I was walking away. He looked so young. He looked SMALL. This is a kid who has never looked small in his life. He was being welcomed into a new and exciting time in his life. He was literally enveloped in friendship and walking away from me.
My heart burst.
I’m not the most overly sentimental Mom when it comes to my kids growing up. I thoroughly enjoy watching them find their independence and do hard things and become their own person, no matter how awkward or bizarre the stage may be. I never understood the phrase “he will always be my baby”. Isn’t it the same feelings when both my kids reach a new milestone?
Spoiler alert: It’s not.
They both have their unique quirks and personalities and find different things simple and different things challenging. But there is something about the baby of the family.
He has always been my little buddy. When brother started preschool and we had a few hours together in the morning, we cleaned the house and did the shopping together and played and played and played and read stories and went to the park. He has a monumental piece of my heart that he carries around with him in his pocket. Watching him walk into every new stage of life and a little bit farther and farther away from me feels like a giant rubber band stretching to just beyond its capacity. I crave the peace and quiet that comes with him being in school all day, but I feel the band threatening to snap. I feel it. And my heart feels it.
He will always get away with more. Always. Every birthday that passes, I find myself readjusting my idea of what “so young” looks like. Oh, four years old is still totally a baby. Five years old isn’t old at all. Six is still so, so young. Seven years old feels like nothing. I have a hunch this will continue until he’s 55.
In my head, I know he’s fully capable and independent and brave, but my heart tells me he is “still the baby”.
His poor brother will always carry more of the expectations of “being grown up”. There should be a textbook for how we raise our different kids and why we don’t even consciously make these decisions on how to parent. It just happens. These “babies” of ours end up wrapping everyone around their finger.
As I watched him walk away, I am so happy for him in a bittersweet kind of way. He is forging a life. He is facing the unknown. He is learning to walk his own path. But his Momma still wonders if he will get too tired or drink enough water or really, truly enjoy his day. And of course, he will. I will pick him up at the end of the day and he will have endless stories about the friends he met and the games he played and how he had it all figured out all by himself.
And I will smile and laugh as he tells me about his day and my heart will say
oh, first grade is still so, so young. He is still my baby.
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