The first day of school has arrived and I have bravely sent forth my youngest child. He marches into the world of phonics and forced friendships with a Ninja Turtle backpack and a fancy Star Wars-themed button-up.
He’s been a little nervous about this transition. Usually worryingly fearless, the last few weeks the guy has been stuck on me like a Band-Aid, needing regular assurances that I won’t leave him and definitive and clearly-stated return times when I do.
We’ve been celebrating the impending milestone as much as possible, talking it up so much we have probably made the anxiety worse. There has been a “Back to School Family Trip,” a new outfit purchased for the occasion and even random gifts handed over to him with little explanation other than “Big guy! You’re about to start Kindergarten!”
The truth, of course, is that none of this fanfare is really for him. It’s for me and his mom.
We are both big messes.
The now 5-year-old wasn’t particularly a planned part of the family. Half a decade ago, we were waffling on whether we wanted a second child. His sister was an easy baby to tend. Our finances were finally starting to get in order. Maybe all of the rude things we’d said when younger about only children were words we could eat or at least pretend to forget.
But one day in March, hours before leaving for an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica, I would walk into the house and see an expression on my wife’s face that said our universe was shifting.
A few months later in a local park, we’d bite into cake pops with family and friends to find out we were having a boy.
My buddy Dan – a father of two girls and a boy – told me in the aftermath of that party how excited he was for me. “You have no idea, man!” he said with a giant grin. “Boys are the best.”
And my boy has been an amazing addition to my life.
I could write tons of cheesy stuff about “what he’s taught me” and “how much he has changed my view of the world” – and it would all be true.
But really – he is just a whole lot of fun. We watch movies, play lightsabers and talk about musical instruments and favorite bands.
And I know none of that is over. I will pick him up every afternoon this week and we will eat a snack with his sister and tell jokes and stories from our days and he will get ornery when I tell him to take a nap.
But there is something concrete about the beginning of the educational pursuit. This act is the first part of season two in the binge-worthy (to me) series that is his life. There will be new characters entering the narrative, a new director, new scenes to try and new lines for him to learn. I’ll always co-executive produce this thing (at least until season 18), but I will never have the same amount of creative control.
And yes – I am being self-indulgent and self-pitying. And I would be a terrible parent if I hovered and shouted from the sidelines and never let go of the back of his shirt. I know all of this.
But I am pretty sure it’s normal to wish I could…