Drew on his first day of kindergarten and just after passing his road test.
I was woken up rudely, abruptly, one morning – yanked from such a sweet, amazing dream a mere four and a half hours after finally finding sleep, that it just added insult to injury. In it, my son, Drew, was a toddler. He sat on a low ledge, or maybe a bench, while I kneeled in front of him. His plump little arms wrapped around my neck and I believe he was laughing – an infectious laugh, his baby breath intoxicating on my face. I think we may have been at a book store. And then… then my alarm went off, erroneously set for thirty-five minutes before I needed to wake up. I was tired, exhausted really, when I finally climbed into bed the night before – that combined with an unfamiliar new phone led me to set three alarms by mistake. I couldn’t fall back to sleep – even for the short time I had. Instead, my mind spun around and around, thinking about what the day would hold and how perfectly symbolic being awakened from that particular dream was, even if it was monumentally annoying.
You see, the dream was especially symbolic, since that day was the one in which one more figurative apron string tethering Drew to me would be cut as he speeds breakneck towards complete independence. And perhaps this was the most significant one in terms of freedom – it was the day he took and passed his driver’s test. And now… now he doesn’t need me to go anywhere. I won’t hear, “Mom can you give me a ride?” I won’t get texts, “Come now.” Or even sometimes, “Please come now,” if my exhortations to be more polite were remembered. Sure, I bemoaned playing taxi – but sometimes I relished it. Actually, often I relished it. Trapped in the car with me, Drew had to engage – he had to at least give clipped answers to my questions. Sometimes we even had full conversations.
Watching Drew pull out of the driveway the first morning he drove to school, was bittersweet. Tears spilled down my cheeks as a memory juxtaposed over him heading down the street to pick up his friend. I could picture that moment so many years ago perfectly…We were waiting in front of my house, standing at the very same curb he drove by, Drew barely able to contain his excitement, as my excitement was slightly tempered with a bittersweet sadness. I had to let my baby go – he was heading off to kindergarten, away from me for a full day for the first time. It was rainy and cool, so Drew was wearing a bright yellow slicker over his navy polo shirt and crisp khaki pants. I was wearing a track suit, my usual uniform back then. This one was black with white stripes down the legs and sleeves, and by the time I went back in the house after watching the bus drive away, the thin material was rain-streaked, leaving me shivering. It was hard then to let go, but I had no idea how much harder it would get.
Sending him on a bus for a day at kindergarten for the first time was a huge step, of course – he had never taken a bus anywhere before. I drove him to nursery school. I drove him to camp. For the first time, someone else was responsible for my baby. But, I still had a child in nursery school and was hoping to get pregnant again in the next few months. I wasn’t “all out of babies,” a line I’d read in an article once about a father deciding it was time to try for another child.
Now, I’m all out of babies. In addition to Drew driving, the tooth fairy just visited for the last time a few nights ago (and left $20 for four stubborn baby teeth that had to be pulled out at the dentist). My eyes welled up with tears as I drew on the envelope I slipped the $20 into. I’ve always drawn a tooth fairy on every envelope I placed under my kids’ pillows, gingerly lifting the pillow, so as not to wake a slumbering child. Three kids equals a lot of tooth fairy envelopes (though I’m sure they stopped believing long before the last envelope was placed under each of their pillows). I couldn’t believe it was the last time. Not only does my youngest, Aidan, not have any baby teeth left, but he doesn’t want me to come to the bus stop to meet him anymore, though he didn’t come right out and say that. He simply said, “I just think it’s not necessary anymore.” He’s probably right, but that won’t stop me from watching him from my porch. He’s eleven, but it’s all the way down the street…
And that’s part of letting go – you have to do it, but you’ll try mightily to hang on just a bit longer. Like still watching our kids walk down the street, whether they think it’s necessary or not. I’ve been thinking about letting go for a long time now – at least since last year when we started looking at colleges for Drew. But, I think it was even before that. There was a small moment that stands out in my memory – just another moment in a mundane day of doing chores. I was in my basement sorting laundry and I picked up a pair of Drew’s pants – khakis he had worn to a science fair the day before. I actually started a blog post about that very moment. It was on September 29, 2014. For some reason, I never finished it. But, here’s the beginning…
“Sometimes there’s a moment that just drives home how big your children are truly getting. Oh, the signs are always there, but there’s often just this tiny moment – one of many in a mundane day – that makes you say, ‘Wow, they’re growing up so fast.’ Mine came while I was doing laundry. I always hold up every item of clothing and inspect it for stains that I need to attack with my trusty spray bottle of Resolve. I held up my son, Drew’s, khaki dress pants and even with the cuff hitting the floor, the waistband was at my chest, or maybe even a little above. And, all of the sudden I had this flashback of holding up his impossibly tiny clothes – little onesies and sleepers – right before he was born. I had just washed everything in Dreft – all yellow or green or white, since I didn’t know if I was having a boy or a girl – and was folding it to put in his dresser, a changing table with a pale yellow pad fastened to the top.
I lowered my hugely pregnant body onto the creamy yellow rocker – festooned with pastel dots, I fell in love with it the minute I saw it at a cavernous baby store in New Hampshire. Sitting in the cushy rocker I held up a mint green quilted sleeper and just imagined my baby wearing it. It was getting so close, I could barely wait to meet him or her…”
That was all I wrote. I must have gotten distracted by kids, dogs, life and just never went back to finish. But I remember that moment I was doing laundry so clearly, even though it was almost a year and a half ago.
Now when I think about it, I should have realized that just because Drew was getting physically big, he was still a young kid. Having just turned sixteen years old, he still needed me to drive him everywhere – he hadn’t even gotten his permit yet. He still was far off from making decisions that would affect the trajectory of his life. College acceptances hadn’t started rolling in. We hadn’t visited any campuses yet. In fact, college applications weren’t even on the radar at that point. Now, I feel like I’m on a runaway train speeding towards my oldest leaving home. It’s an important step, it’s an exciting step, but no matter what – it will be a bittersweet one, as well. Just like putting my five year old on the bus to go to kindergarten for the first time all those years ago, it’s time for me to let go…