My little boy graduated from preschool today. He wore a little cap and got a diploma from his “teacher”. He was just so cute. Where did his babyhood go? He’s going to school in a few weeks!
He is probably the oldest in the group, having turned 5 in January (he could tell you his birthday, if you asked). He sang the loudest when they sang “Kindergarten Here We Come”. He is definitely not shy. He wore shorts and a loud printed Cat in the Hat button-up shirt (sufficiently spiffy to satisfy me, garish to his tastes), with a grubby beaded necklace he made weeks ago and has worn ever since. He had a dirty face, as usual, and cowlicks in his hair that he will battle for life. The freckles across his nose are my favourite part of him, when I look at him, though.
I wonder what he will become, what he will do with his life. How he will channel the power in his personality and use it productively. I can see him as a lawyer or something, maybe a teacher. He’s got pretty good reflexes, mentally if not physically (although those are pretty good when there’s spilled slurpee on bare skin). He can always come, instantly, up with a logical, potentially workable solution to any unsurmountable problem. We can’t go to the zoo because Daddy’s at work and we won’t have a car, I say. Well we can take the bus, he’d say. I can have candy after brushing my teeth, he’ll argue. I’ll just brush them again. He knows the angles. He does the math.
It’s been a bit of a rough year, behaviour-wise. He’s been pretty bored, which means he’s often pretty miserable. At least one night this week he was in bed by 6:30 for unacceptable behaviour (my theory is that if he’s behaving that poorly, it’s because he’s too tired to remember the rukes if acceptable behaviour, like not screaming that I’m a stupid poo-poo-head that he hates at the dinner table). I kind of predicted it, though.. he has a history of behaviour regression when he’s understimulated. And although the daycare staff was wonderful in trying to keep him challenged, intellectually, he really needed Kindergarten this year. Socially, he will benefit forever from the extra year. But I also worry he will be bored in Kindergarten. I hope they can challenge him. He really is a nice kid when he is being pushed to use his power for good, not evil. However, he’ll also be the first kid in his class eligible to get a driver’s license, and buy beer legally. I see issues in our future.
So we enter a new stage of family life. Aimee is a fully-fledged school-ager, whose tastes run more to GameBoy and her portable CD player these days than Barbie and baby dolls. Jack is heading that way pretty quickly, with more interest lately in Lego than Matchbox cars. Things change. I have loved every stage, and grieved the passing of each, but I love each new stage more. I loved their fat little baby knees, but I don’t miss diapers. I loved the language acquisition stage, but I love the conversations we have now. The learning-to-read stage is next. It has been exciting and satisfying for Aimee, and I am so looking forward to Jack having the same experience of the discovery of the written world.
At the same time as I am looking forward to what is around the corner for our family, I am reticent to wish away their childhood, striving for the next stage. Never have I said, “I can’t wait ntil they…” use the toilet, can stay home alone, sleep through the night. I know it will pass in a blur… it already is. And truth be told, the next, whichever it is, always scares me. I like familiarity. I resist change. But, thankfully, the changes happen gradually enough that I don’t notice. One day I’ll say, hey, he speaks in full sentences. Hey, her fat little knee dimples are gone. Hey, she just rolled her eyes at me. But he still needs his blankie and his mom when he’s hurt; she still comes to us bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when she’s the first one up in the morning. They still need us. I’m not ready to be peripheral yet. I’m glad I won’t know exactly which time will be the last time I pick him up to cuddle in my lap. I wouldn’t be able to bear it.
So barring infidelity or surgical failure, I have just seen my baby, my last child, take the first step toward the next stage of our family’s natural history. It’s exciting and sad all at the same time. I suddenly understand the meaning of “bittersweet”. I am a parent of two school-agers. I am the luckiest mom in the world. They are healthy, and smart, and normal. And extraordinary.