Yesterday was your very first day of Pre-K. As we walked across the courtyard, the voices of the last two years called out to greet you. Your teacher from the three year old class. Your best friend from the two year old class. Your school embraced you like a warm hug as you held my hand and stepped hesitantly into the class that was once reserved for “big kids”. You usually greet everyone with a huge grin and a hearty hello, but yesterday was different. Yesterday was the very first time that you really understood what a first day meant.
“Mommy, I’m scared” you whispered to me the night before, as I tucked your covers around your tummy. “I don’t know any of my new friends names.” This year was going to be different. You were no longer the two year old who Teacher Linda peeled from my arms as you cried and threw up, for the first two weeks that I left you. You are no longer the three year old who broke from my grasp and ran over to the big wooden blocks in Teacher Brigitte’s class, as I lamely followed you to give you one more kiss. You are four now, and four means that the night before school, as I kissed your forehead and tucked Silly Guy the Giraffe in next to you, you fully realized that you had no idea what was going to happen in class the next day. When would you have snack? Who would play trains with you? What if you needed help going potty? The full weight of this huge “first” was resting squarely on your Spiderman-jammied shoulders. You understood that the tide of change would be creeping up on you tomorrow, and you needed help staying afloat. Two year olds are content to drift with the current. Three year olds just love how it feels to be enveloped by the waves. But four year olds are thoughtful, present, and hold tightly to their life vests as they try to figure out which direction everyone is swimming in.
There will be many firsts for you, my sweet son. The first time you sit at your desk in a kindergarten classroom. Your first kiss. The first time you drive a car. The first time you look around your dorm room and realize how far from home you are. The funny thing about firsts is that there is always a before and an after. The before side can be scary. Firsts are new and different, and they force you to find your anchor and trust that you will be safe. We are your anchor. Your Daddy, Ben and I. Our family keeps you from drifting with the current, and reminds you of how perfectly buoyed you are. The after side is like a breath of fresh air, cooling you down with the understanding that you have become your own anchor. You will always be able to see us on the horizon, but as you grow, you’ll set your anchor down and realize that you’re strong enough to discover new ports on your own.
Yesterday wasn’t the first time that I dropped you off at this school, but it was the first time that your classroom had the words “Pre-K” printed on the side. It was the first time that I watched you fall into line and parade out to the playground. The two year olds hold a rope when they walk, all toddling down the hall and falling all over themselves. The three year olds hold hands in pairs, scattering like dandelion seeds with distraction and excitement. But the four year old class fell into line. I don’t even know where you learned that, to line up single file with a quiet smile on your face? Big kids march in a line. Big Pre-K kids, who are preparing for Kindergarten.
It was the first time that I watched through the window to make sure that you had someone to play with at the train table. It was the first time that I held my breath and hoped that your new friends would understand you, and prayed that they wouldn’t tease you for the way that your words come out. It was the first time that I wheeled your baby brother out to the parking lot, feeling a little guilty for having an entire morning alone with him while a piece of us was somewhere else.
You are my first.
You are the first song that I sang as I rocked you to sleep. You are the first tears that I cried when I kissed your beautiful face in the operating room. You are the first fear that I felt when I left you with someone else for the first time.
Today, as you spread out on the couch after school to watch a movie, I looked over at Ben wiggling around on his playmat. I watched his tiny legs kicking in the air, and held my breath as his chubby thighs rolled him over onto his side. Would this be the first time that he rolled over? I couldn’t bring myself to look away. What if I missed it?
You are both going to have a lifetime of firsts. Stops and starts. Worried whispers as we tuck you both into bed at night. When I kiss your forehead and brush your soft brown hair out of your eyes, I am reminded of the first time that I said goodbye to your dad. An eager hug. A plan for a second date before the first one had ended. His wavy hair framing hazel eyes, gold flecks accenting the deep green. Just like your eyes. Just like Ben’s. He was the first person that I loved more than I loved being alone. He was the first man that I have ever shared a home with, and the only human being on this earth that I have ever wanted to navigate a life with. He is the first time that I knew that I would be ok, away from my own home, watching my own family on the horizon.
You are our first. You have a lifetime of beautiful firsts laid out before you. YOU are the first time that I have taken my heart to Pre-K, and left it there. My kind, brave, sweet son. My son who carefully tucked a plastic falcon in your pocket at the end of the first school day. “He just jumped in my pocket Mommy! I was playing with him and he’s my best pet!”. You are my first laughter every morning, and my first kiss every night. We are your anchor and you are the compass. For the first time, I know that you will find your way just fine.