“you can leave”
Just moments earlier he had screwed his face into his “I am mad/scared face” as I tried to convince him clippers would make this much protested back to school haircut go faster. “no clippers!” he wailed, his eyes tearful, his chin quivering. We acquiesced, me and the slightly grumpy stylist at the local Sports Clips. No clippers. He giggled and squirmed as she sprayed his hair with cool water then sat still as she began to comb and cut. “you can leave” he told me.
I waited in the lobby until he was done, looking ten years old suddenly and I praised him for surviving the dreaded chopping of the locks. After Huck was done we headed out for frozen yogurt.
The night before he started Kindergarten he was too excited to sleep. I had been prepared for extra cuddling, extra reassurances and perhaps one of the early morning panicked wakings. He put the fan right on his face and cocooned up in the blanket on the other side of the bed from me, not his usual as close as I can possibly get to you position and after our good night ritual he told me it was okay if I left to get some water. He hasn’t fallen asleep without me by his side, usually tightly gripping my arm in two years, excepting when I was in the hospital with Piper. But that night he let go.
“You can leave”
I got water. I showered. I crawled back into bed expecting him to roll towards me as he does…like a sleeping homing device draws him to my side. Nothing. I nursed Piper and finished my book and resisted the urge to grab him and pull him toward me. Perhaps I should have. I know I felt a sense of accomplishment that all our encouragement about school had led to this day and he was excited and only a little scared as opposed to sobbing and terrified. He was okay. I also know I wanted those cuddles. I wasn’t okay.
I took a picture of him before he woke. He looked so small and still and I knew today was a marking point in our lives. My mother always said 5 is the best age because it’s before you send them to school and they get told that all things that make them special actually make them weird. Its the time they are the most themselves. I mourn this. I pray his specialness won’t get stomped on and I pray he won’t stomp on someone else. He is silly and sweet and funny and he celebrates everything and every one and I hope to God that is treasured by others the way we treasure it.
Once he finally woke, Dad brushed his hair and got him ready. Max put on his backpack and paced around the hall. Ready to go. Ready for this adventure. He was focused and I could see him pep-talk himself a time or two, but he was ready. Finally we got in the car and headed out to the schoo. Then he was off. He lined up with the other kids as the paparazzi snapped a million pictures. His teacher had them wave to us and tell us not to cry…
…and he left.