We need to leave the house for Kindergarten Orientation in an hour. That moment that everyone talks about when they come to visit you in the hospital after giving birth has arrived. People peek into your hospital room and look at you, soft and cracked open, eyes red and scratchy from the marathon of carrying and delivering life. They see your heart in your eyes and on your sleeve and laying swaddled in the basinet and they say, “Before you know it, he’ll be going off to Kindergarten.”
I remember those words, I remember nodding and saying, “I know,” like I actually knew and then smiling and snuggling him close. I remember so many days where those words came to mind like the promise of rain on a hot day and others when they came to mind like thorns trailing beneath the bloom of bright childhood.
They were true, though.
Before I knew it…
The school supplies are ready and waiting by the door. Pencils and folders and something called Velcro dots that were harder to find than gold at the end of the rainbow but all I can think about are the footy pajamas he used to wear.
They were blue with bugs all over them and were made from fleece as soft as baby skin. I loved them because of the bugs. Bugs for my Judah Bug. He wore them when he was six months old and I loved how his sleepy, dead weight felt in them. Every part of him was soft and squishy.
I spent hours looking at those jammies wrapped on his baby fat, hours holding him in them while I nursed.
There were so many nights when the feel of them comforted my tired hands as I carried us through another midnight feeding…
Now he’s going to Kindergarten.
I made it through a year of not sleeping so I can certainly do this.
Well, maybe I could if it wasn’t for the fact that his sister is starting preschool in a few days too.
When I look at her, with her backpack on, preparing for her first day, I can’t help but fight the urge to run upstairs and stare at the onesie I have stashed in the back of her top dresser drawer.
It’s the first thing she ever wore and it didn’t come from me.
The hospital found it for her in the NICU because we didn’t have any clothes with us that would fit our 4-pound baby, the perfect one with rose-bud lips that came a month early.
An angel-nurse brought it to us and it looked like doll clothes. She slipped it on our tiny girl’s body and fit her better than her own skin, that skin that hung on her wrinkly and empty where it should have been rolling with fat.
I remember being so touched by the kindness of the nurse. She had brought it to us, saying she had dug through the drawers of the NICU so we could have something pretty to put on Annabelle. My heart was tender and raw from the fear that had gripped it during my delivery, when we had almost lost our little one and kindness has a way of stroking those exposed places like balm.
I have left that onesie in her drawer since then, always nearby, ready for me to pull out and hold in the palm of my hand, ready to remind me of how far our girl has come.
Far enough to go to school…
I made it through life with a preemie, with its oxygen and triple feedings and colic and fear so I can certainly do this.
I can do this.
I can send them off and let go of a little more. I can let them grow and learn and create a little more space for themselves away from me.
I can trust them with the lessons I’ve taught and the love I’ve buried in their hearts. I can be confident in who they are.
I can be brave.
I can hold these pieces of my heart loosely.
I can do it because they’re ready. This is how it’s supposed to go. This is the point, after all, to raise them so we can send them out little by little.
These are the moments that everyone talks about, the milestones that you look towards and prepare for and, with a sigh, I can say we’re ready. I’ll send them off with their school supplies and back packs that look larger than life on their little bodies. They’ll take their lunch boxes and folders and wave good bye and I’ll come home. I’ll probably cry and then pull out those pajamas and onesie and remember how far we’ve come.
I’ll hold those pieces of their past, and I’ll hold them good and tight but their future… that I’ll hold loosely. I’ll let it grow and breathe and spill over and out of my hands and trust that it will be blessed by my touch.