It's not much easier the second time

I sent another one off to kindergarten today, which means I spent most of yesterday feeling emotional and slightly nauseous...and trying to find time to write him a proper letter. I pulled myself together by morning, but you can tell by the out-of-focus photo that my hands never stopped shaking.

The Cord

August 22, 2010

Dear Rascal,

You start kindergarten tomorrow! I can hardly believe it’s here.

This time last year I couldn’t even say the word kindergarten without you burying your head against my leg. “I don’t want to be older,” you told me. “I will miss my old playground,” you said. “What if the kids don’t play Super Secret Spy like I do?” you asked.

And now, here we are. You are mostly relaxed about this new change and I feel sure you will arrive at school tomorrow without drama—as long as I don’t talk too much about it today. You do not need to hear that I know three other moms in the class and that you briefly met so-and-so at swim team this summer. You do not want to dissect how the classroom operates or wish to discuss the ins and outs of cafeteria protocol. You have not given a second thought to what you are wearing tomorrow.

You know and adore your teacher because he taught your older sister. You like that you have a hook for your backpack and that the bathroom is right next door. Everything else, you trust, will fall into place.

It was not always this easy. There was a time I dreaded every single school drop-off. During your first few years of preschool you made me work for each second I spent without you. Correction: you made me bleed for each second. There were tears, always: big rolling ones that quietly spilled down your face while you clung to my side. There was gentle pleading: “Please, Mama. Please. I will miss you too much.” It would have been so much easier to leave if you had thrown yourself into an obnoxious fury. But no, you were tender and heartbreaking and left me torn to pieces.

On particularly tough, tear-stained mornings, I would give you a final hug and say, “I love you. You can do this. You will have fun.”  And I would tell myself, “I love him. I can do this. I may not have fun, but I must walk away regardless.”

And we both did our part. And when it was time to pick you up, I knew without fail that I would be greeted by a running, leaping hug. You would be all smiles and full of stories. Those bear hugs immediately pieced together my tender heart.

Son, you don’t remember this, but you entered the world with a clenching grip on your umbilical cord, cutting off your own oxygen, sounding off the blood pressure alarms and forcing the nurses to leap to action. When you let go of the cord, you grabbed hold of my heart with that same intensity--and you have yet to let go.

There has always been something fierce about your love. And from early on I, too, found myself loving you with the strength of a thousand Mama bears.

It’s with this animal instinct that I will watch you make the step to kindergarten tomorrow. And I will hover at the door. And I will use all my powers to will your teachers and classmates to see the boy I know so well. To see your incredible imagination, your focus, your gentle spirit, your sly sense of humor. Because Rascal, you are so worth seeing.

You should know that tomorrow morning I will need an extra goodbye hug. Because this time I’m sure that I will be the one holding on too tight. When this happens, just tell me you love me, that you can do this, that you will have fun. Then walk away, son, and leave the tears to me.

And when I see you after school, I will be there early, twitching and pacing. I will be waiting for the smiles and the stories... But especially for the bear hug.

I love you, my Rascal Mama

If you missed my kindergarten letter to first-born Doodlebug, you can find it here.

Also, I had the honor of reading this piece live in Austin's Listen to Your Mother show, in May 2011. What an amazing experience! Check out the video here.

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