As a Mom and an education professional the beginning of this school year looked different for me than the start of school years passed. This school year was different because my five year old son started a new school. I started the school year on a scooter after having surgery on my ankle. Instead of driving my son to school and myself to work, my mother picked us both up and delivered us to our destinations…kind of like the old days when I was a child and she was my taxi; except we are older and an extra mini-me is tagging along in a carseat.
I was determined to “walk” my son into this new building with new faces and new ideas…that’s what mom’s do, right? So my Mom would pick us up each morning, drive us to my son’s school, and unload the scooter so I could “walk”, I mean “roll,” my son into school. Then my mom would load me up and take me to work and unload me again. I would roll away, dreaming of day I can walk away from the car on my own without assistance. After about two and half months, I was cleared to walk again and our routine returned to normal. I walked away.
On scooter or feet, there were many days at the beginning of the school year, when I walked my son into school and he held my hand tight or clung on to me because goodbyes can be hard (and kids are generally experts at guilt tripping parents). There were days he clung to my neck like a chimpanzee and days my skirt felt like it might fall to my knees from him tugging on me. After dropping him off at school, I would get in my car and on the way to work worry about him. Luckily, my drive time worries were short lived with less than a mile drive to my place of work and the realities of my workday smacking in the face as soon as I enter the doors. But, on the short drive and throughout the day I worried about how long this behavior would keep up? Was he not transitioning well? Was there something I was missing? Shouldn’t he be outgrowing the clingy stage? And on and on the questions grew within my heart and mind.
For the first months of schools, we kept our routine up each morning, me talking about how big boys act at drop off and shoving him onto an activity with his friends or into the arms of his teacher as I dropped him off. I bribed him with ice-cream treats and other rewards if he acted like a big boy. And then one day, it happened. I walked him into his classroom and he just walked away without a kiss, hug, or a goodbye. No tears. No chimpanzee moves. Nothing. I was stuck between the two conflicting universes of happy and sad. Should I skip out of the school singing or mope out crying? I think I skipped out of the building and then I cried.
Then a few days later, something bigger happened. We pulled up to his school one morning, I parked the car to get him out, and he said “Mom, I am going in by myself today. Just stay in the car.” To which I replied “well, I will walk you across the parking lot to the building and get the door for you.” And he replied to my suggestion with “No, I don’t want you to. I got this Modder (Mother).” So off he went across the parking lot with a bounce in his step wearing his oversized backpack and carrying his lunchbox. I watched him walk away.
As I watched him walk away, I recorded the moment in my forever memory bank. I played it over and over in my head for days to come as I thought about his new found behavior…his new freedom to walk away.
The remainder of our morning drop offs this year, go something like this. He unbuckles his car seat and hops out of the car. I help him put his backpack on and give him his lunch box. He gets a big hug and kiss from me. As he walks away, I yell out “I love you, have a great day, and make good choices.” Without turning around he yells back, “Okay, I love you too and I will. Okay Mom.” I watch him walk away from me and bounce with pep in his step to his next adventure. I walk away and I get in the car, close the door and my heart says a silent prayer of thanks for him with a universal request that the world is gentle on him today. And, let’s face it, that he will be gentle on the world, too. Each time he walks away, I can’t wait to hear about his great adventures on the other side of his day.
Not too long after he started walking into school on his own, I captured this video to remember the feelings and emotions I experienced of him walking away.
I have thought about the emotions associated with walking away. I know my Mom was happy to see me walk away and not have to haul me around anymore as a teenager and as an adult on a scooter, but she was probably also a little sad that she wasn’t needed in that same capacity any longer. It seems that society has programmed us to think of walking away with sadness and loss. Walking away has a bad connotation to it- it makes us feel like we are giving up, calling it quits, or losing something. When I think about moments I have walked away, for good/happy reasons or failure/sad reasons, it seems that happiness always emerged eventually. So maybe walking away isn’t so bad and it really is about seizing the next opportunity, rather than losing something you are walking away from in that moment. Maybe what you are walking into is more exciting, than the loss of what you are walking away from.
It’s my job to teach my son when and how to walk away. There will be various forms of chimpanzees that want to hold on to his neck to hold him back and prevent him from moving forward. Heck, there will be a day when I am senile and I might act like a chimpanzee. However, I want him to know the strength of being able to walk away and listen to his inner voice that says “I got this.”
There will be lots of times, this precious boy of mine will walk away. This life is his journey to walk, not mine. Really, I am just fortunate to be along for the ride…even if my view is his backside walking away. I hope I am lucky enough to see him walk away to his new big school next year, to middle school, to high school, and on to college (if any Notre Dame reps are reading this-he has plans for a soccer scholarship so just call us because we can commit early). I want to experience the joy and excitement when he walks away from me and onto opportunities like field trips, special adventures, traveling the globe, and serving others. I look forward to seeing him walk away from me and walk down the on isle to commit to the love of his life, to his first job, to go meet his first born, and all the other life moments HIS journey holds. A journey that includes many stops that are his to walk without me.
Today my spoon is full of anticipation of when I get a chance to walk with him like old times. For example, like when his valentine box was just too much too carry and he needed my help or when we had two dozen cupcakes to drop off at school. I proudly jump out of the car and walked with him.