Off the Line: Sssshhh. Do you hear that? Listen carefully

What you are hearing is a legion of parents breathing that huge sigh of relief.

 

Karen Haviland

 

What you are hearing is a legion of parents breathing that huge sigh of relief that the start of a new school year is just around the corner.

With that return date looming right around the corner many parents are scurrying around buying back to school clothes and supplies for their child.

Of course, while there are many a weary parents eagerly awaiting that day, there are likely just as many who are dreading the day. That is the day that signals that their baby is no longer a baby. Instead he or she suddenly went from being a dependant needing mom or dad’s constant help to being an independent person who is going to be graduating from school in the blink of an eye.

I never went to kindergarten. Back then, in the old ages, kindergarten was not mandatory and so I missed that part of childhood. Whether that was for the good or the bad is something I am still trying to work out.

When my son went to kindergarten 38 years ago (in the States) kindergarten was mandatory and there was none of that half-day, three times a week business. No siree! It was Monday through Friday and it was an all day deal.

Even though it was almost four decades ago (wow! Decades. That seems like forever.) that crisp autumn morning remains clearly in my memory.

If you are doing the right thing as a parent, you are raising your child to be an independent and functioning human being. We know growth can be painful at times, but every parent knows that quite often their child’s growth is a painful thing to us, the parents.

That morning I made my son a full-on lunch to bring along with him and gelled down the persistent cowlick that always seemed to dog him. After making sure his tummy was full, his clothing was immaculate and he was fully prepared for his adventure, I took his little hand in mind and together we headed toward his first step into formal education.

I wasn’t too worried about his social blending with other children. After all, I was a mother who worked outside the home and thus he was no stranger to socializing with other children.

With each step we took, it felt as if I was heading for the guillotine. My steps dragged as I subconsciously tried to put off the moment when I would be saying goodbye to my one and only child. What if his teacher didn’t like him? What if he got hungry before lunchtime? What if he had to sit next to the school bully?

Of course my thoughts ran rampant and unchecked.

The whole while I was trudging along and struggling with my emotions and fears, my son was urgently pulling me by the hand, silently coaxing me to go faster. That boy always ran head first into adventure and I usually reveled in that personality trait. That day, however, I wished for a fraidy cat child who would linger a long while when on the way to his first day of school.

My heart was surely confused the moment we saw the school. The proud mother part could hardly wait to take his picture as he walked towards the school doors. The other mother, you parents know of what I speak, dreaded that moment. Back then parents were gently discouraged from walking their child into the classroom. The school of thought was that it would be highly traumatic for the child when the parent finally had to take leave.

With great reluctance I released my son’s hand and then bent down to kiss him on the cheek and give him a huge bear hug; a hug big enough see him through the day, should he need it.

As I leaned down to plant that kiss, he looked up at me and said, in a pleading sort of way, “Mom.” Now, I am sure all you mothers out there know that the word mom can mean a thousand things, depending on how it’s said.

Well, use your imagination.

I gave him that kiss despite his protests. He then turned, flashed me his crooked smile and said, “See ya!”

He was so eager to begin this next stage in his life that he didn’t even want me to walk him to the door.

Grabbing for my camera, and with a huge lump in my throat and tears threatening to spill on to my cheeks at any moment, I proceeded to try and record that day on film; except there was a problem. He was already half way down that sidewalk, his back turned to me as he ran off to greet this new chapter of his life.

I guess I wasn’t prepared for that show of independence and yet, that very act of independence showed me that I was on the right track when it came down to preparing my child for life. I wasn’t prepared for that, nor was I ready.

Walking home that morning I realized that my baby, my child, was no longer my baby. He will always remain my child no matter what his age. But I knew that morning he was no longer my baby.