I remember everything about that morning. The breakfast, the getting dressed in the tiny navy shorts and uniform polo, tying his shoes, packing his favorite lunch foods in the Blue's Clues lunch box. I remember the sad drive there, and thinking silently in my head, "Is he going to be OK there all day? What if he just wants to come home? His teacher doesn't know any of his likes and dislikes! What if he cries?"
That was 12 years ago, on my oldest son's first day of kindergarten. I was nervous, hesitant -- excited, yet leery. I was holding his hand, and my 3-year-old's hand, and squeezing my swollen pregnant belly through the classroom door. I was having that surreal moment that every mom has on her first child's first day of school. I said with disbelief out loud: "How did this happen so fast?" Another mom overheard me. She too had a son starting kindergarten, but also had older children in school. Together, we watched the 5-year-old miniature soldiers march into the classroom, and I said it again: "I can't believe how fast that went. He was just born." She shook her head and raised her eyebrows, smiled, then sighed, ready to impart some been-there-done-that wisdom to this first-time school mom.
"If you think that was fast, you won't believe how fast it goes by now."
I will never forget that moment, or how that simple sentence has lived up to its magnitude tenfold. It's as if the second they cross the threshold into school, childhood shifts into warp speed. I have since spoken the sentence myself to other first-time school moms. And every fall, on the first day of every school year, I too shake my head now in disbelief, then sigh and wonder how this happened. How does time metamorphose like that, all at once passing painfully slowly and then passing painfully fast? Where was all that time that spanned and then magically transported our children faster and faster into adulthood? How did we spend it, during those school years?
We spent it making pancakes and wiping counters, folding pajamas and cleaning skinned knees. We spent it making Halloween costumes and hiding Easter eggs, watching endless baseball innings, soccer games, and five-hour rounds of youth golf. We spent it gluing shoebox projects, signing permission slips, and changing soiled bed sheets. We spent it packing sleepover bags, athletic equipment bags, and lunch bags. And we spent it yearning for the school year to just hurry up and end, because we were exhausted and eager for summer break, only to find ourselves, three months later, exhausted again and yearning for the school year to hurry up and start.
Next week my little boy, whom I hesitantly dropped off at kindergarten 12 years ago, will get in his car and, together with that 3-year-old (now 14), he will drive off to high school. They will leave at 7 a.m. and return 12 hours later after classes and sports. I like to think of it as warp speed weaning in a sense, because for now they are out of my reach 12 hours a day, but in two years, that little boy will be away at college, and then out of my reach for weeks, maybe months at a time. Ouch.
I will help out next week at the elementary school's annual "Boo-Hoo Breakfast" that is held on the first day of school. It is for kindergarten moms, a kind of "dry your eyes, it's all good" baptism into school. I will pour hot coffee and serve blueberry muffins to nervous, weepy new school moms, and I will watch them shake their heads in disbelief, and mumble to themselves, "How did this happen?" I will hang back in the shadows, but at one point I know I will find myself talking to an older mom, whose child just graduated college and started his very first job. I will lament about how my teenagers are driving me crazy, and I cannot imagine my 16-year-old, who most mornings can't find his pants, actually being a college graduate and joining the ranks of society as an adult. She will shake her head and raise her brows, smile, sigh, and say, "If you think high school is going by fast, the college years pass by faster than you can say keg party. Just. You. Wait." I am genuinely frightened at how right she may be.
Melissa Fenton runs a fraternity house made up of 4 boys, is a wannabe bakery and yarn shop owner, a cookbook hoarder/reviewer, a badass mother runner, and sometimes a humor writer at http://4boysmother.com. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/4BoysMother and Twitter at