School year begins in April in Japan, so last week in Osaka I saw a lot of parents rushing to attend the Opening Ceremonies at their children’s schools. Many of the moms don their spring kimono for this momentous occasion. Walking on the streets lined with cherry blossoms, the view of these ladies took me back in time…not only to historical Japan, but also to my own son’s first day of elementary school.
Josh attended the preschool and kindergarten right on the grounds at the church where I was on staff during that time. In total, Josh spent four years — very safe, nurturing, and familiar four years — at this wonderful facility.
That’s why it was such a dramatic change when I enrolled him in our neighborhood public school. Irvine has a great school system so I was not concerned about the quality of education he would be receiving. It’s just that it was no longer familiar territory. It was time to step out into the big, bad world.
Mrs. Calkins was a tenderhearted first grade teacher who understood us moms’ apprehension and let us linger just a few extra moments at the classroom door before leaving our children in her care for the day. It was a cloudy day, and the dark skies reflected what was going on inside my heart as I fought back tears.
My baby…oh, I miss him.
I was surprised by how sad I felt about Josh entering first grade. I should have been rejoicing! After all, I had spent the previous 6 years counting down the days until I regained my freedom. I couldn’t wait for Josh to start school! But then the memories came rushing back. Oh, the fun walks we had together, just the two of us at the park and at the mall! And all those trains we chased! I pictured his sweet face looking up at me in the bassinet when he was only a few weeks old, and how much I enjoyed cuddling with him during nap time when he was a toddler. I realized that I wasn’t quite ready to let go of my son just yet. I wished I could turn back the hands of time, just a little.
After I left school, I went to run some errands, and that’s when I ran into a friend. At the time, he was still a newlywed and not yet a parent. I’ll call him James. Not aware of my fragile emotional state, he waved hello and casually asked, “How’s it going?”
“My son started first grade today,” I said, trying to sound normal, which I was not.
James, being a young man, responded in a way that any non-parent in his situation would:
“Oh, that’s good. Um, congratulations? Well, see ya,” and away he went, leaving only me to deal with this awful conversation that just ensued.
Good? That’s good? I’ve lost my baby, my world is falling apart, and you think I should be congratulated? What type of a heartless soul are you?
No longer able to contain my tears, I ran back to my car for a good, long cry.
Later, I reflected on my little conversation with James, and it dawned on me that I must have said twice as many insensitive things to people who are parents. You just can’t understand the heart of a parent until you become one yourself. I felt mortified as I recalled some of the unthoughtful and stupid words I had said. Oh, if I could only go back to apologize to all those moms and dads for the dumb things I said!
Tomorrow night, we are attending the orientation night at the high school where he’ll be attending starting this fall. And in four years from now, we’ll be looking at colleges.
I can’t imagine what a wreck I’m going to be when that day comes around.
How did you feel when you sent your child off to first day of school? Any college parents out there who could give us some words of wisdom? Please feel free to do so in the comments below!