Four and a half years ago, I had a baby. We named him Orion. He was beautiful, all arms and legs and intense baby rage. I thought the time stretched out before us was infinite, punctuated only by bottles and sleepy baby kisses. Then I woke up one morning and my baby had grown into a strong willed little man. His eyes sparkle and he laughs easily. He has independent thoughts and opinions. Those chubby baby arms and legs are now long and lanky and the rolls of flubber have been replaced by lean muscles. I think the only thing he has retained from those days are his cute, peachy butt cheeks and the ability to completely disarm me with a smile.
Excluding Piper’s birth, we’ve spent almost every day together since Orion entered the world. This year, kindergarten’s creeping shadow loomed over us and I was filled with anxiety at the thought. (Where had my time gone? Who are these people trying to take my baby? He is mine, dammit. Mine!) I tried to maintain an aura of calm for his sake, but by the time we arrived for the orientation session my heart was thundering like a race horse.
“How do you feel about your son starting kindergarten?” One of the teachers asked. I looked around, desperate for some reassurance. We were alone, so I summoned my courage and told her the truth.
“I don’t know. This will be the longest he has ever been away from me,” I said, my voice wobbly.
“You will always be important to him,” she said gently. I laughed through welling tears.
“Oh, I’m not worried about being the center of his universe. I’m worried because he’s the center of mine,” I said. She was silent a long moment, then she smiled and put her arm across my shoulders.
“I think that is the best way to be, because it means he has your love and support. Look at him,” she suggested.
I looked. He was playing in the sand, a whirling dervish of appendages partially obscured by a cloud of flying granules. His face was lit with joy, eyes shining and laughter floating in the air. Every inch of him quivered with excitement as he strove to play everywhere, with everything, at the same time.
I’m not sure at what point the teacher wandered off. I was entranced, following Orion blindly from play dough to painting to jigsaws and beyond, watching his mind blossom and his spirit soar. He ran up to every child he saw and introduced himself, chattering loudly into their astonished expressions before spinning and racing away to the next person or activity that caught his eye. When it was time to leave, he was incredibly disappointed and immediately demanded to know when he could go back.
The next session, I wasn’t allowed to stay and watch. I expected the day to last forever and end with us both crying in each other’s arms. But it didn’t. Piper and I ate lunch. She went down for a nap whilst I did some work, safe and happy in the knowledge that Orion’s effervescent spirit was exactly where it needed to be. I don’t want us to be separated, but I am also very aware that I can’t give him a life’s worth of experience and stimulation.
It’s been a week now. He’s already memorised the names of his teachers and hidden enough sand in his shoes to cover my entire backyard. The first six hour day, I was late to pick him up and instead of a tear-faced ball of anxiety, Orion was waiting calmly, reading a story with one of his teachers whilst the other stood at the door looking for me. I was a tear-faced ball of anxiety, but he threw his arms around my neck and kissed me all over my sad face until I realised that he was totally, completely fine.
Our non-kinder days have been filled with anticipation and disappointment that he can’t go to kinder right now. There were even a few tears on Thursday morning when Orion realised he had to wait another whole day to visit again. I still feel uncomfortable about his absence, especially when I see Piper patrolling the hallway, peering into every room and then turning to me to say “All gone.” However, the sheer joy on her face when we collected him helped assuage my doubts. My heart did a little happy dance when the two of them laughingly embraced each other.
How about you? Do you have any kids off to kinder this year? How did they go, and how did you feel about it?