the second-first day

Today was Ethan's second first day of school. He did a brief two week stint last fall at a school that I carefully selected yet became very obvious (very quickly) that it was a horrible fit for him in actuality. From the moment I first dropped him off at his last school, I sat with tears in my eyes and a pit in my stomach until the moment I could retrieve him. He would return home rattled with tales of yelling and classroom free-for-alls that made my stomach drop (my best friend took my anxiety down a notch by telling me to imagine Ethan as Jim from The Office, looking into the camera while these antics happened around him). I did not have the same dread when we toured this new school, which happens to be a smaller Montessori even closer to our home.

Selfishly, I am not ready to say goodbye to my at-home time with Ethan. I have spent the past five years growing accustomed to ten a.m. park playdates or midweek zoo trips. Five years is a long time to suddenly have to pull away from the only way of life you truly know. Of course, time changes things and children grow older (yes, I'm singing Landslide in my head, too). Ethan has been bored at our ten a.m. park playdates as the only options for playmates are two year olds who are not yet enrolled in school. He wanted so badly to be part of a classroom and a school environment again and I just keep telling myself that my plan was always to follow his lead. When he was not ready for school, I happily warded off the nosy strangers wondering why my four year old was at home with me still. When he decided he was ready, my plan was to let him soar with the greatness I know he is capable of. I've always believed that following his lead is the best thing I can possibly do for him -- even if letting go and stepping into the next stage of life hurts my heart. I teared up just a little bit as I walked to my car this morning, asking Carmen what in the world we should do until it's time to pick up her brother.

But the strangest thing happened at drop off today, too: it felt okay. The pit in my stomach was not there, no matter how hard I tried to seek it out. I did not have that maternal urge to fling myself over him to protect him from the (non-existent) yelling. Instead, I dropped him off into a beautiful Montessori classroom where love, kindness and warmth permeated through the air. He was immediately greeted by his kind teacher and escorted to an activity by a sweet classmate. "Okay, you can say bye now," Ethan said without looking up from the activity he and his new classmate were doing together. They were about to begin morning yoga. And then I felt it: the peace. This fit was perfect. This school felt made for Ethan, and made for our family, and nothing seemed as catastrophic as it did a few months ago.

Once we dropped Ethan off, Carmen and I went to the park. Sitting there enjoying the nice breeze with Carmen as she worked on pulling up on the equipment bars and trying to stand unassisted, I realized again just how fast it all goes. It feels like yesterday Ethan and I had years left of our free, meandering days. I know that right now it feels like Carmen and I have all of the time in the world for this freedom and stage of life, but now I know that's not true at all. I will blink and she will be starting school and it'll be an entirely different phase of life for us to navigate. Not bad, of course, but different. I like to think that I cherished every second of Ethan's time at home with me but I will make it my mission to be sure I never, ever take a moment of Carmen's time at home for granted.

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