As I drove the familiar route home, I glanced in the rear view mirror at his sweet face.
“Tell me about your day, Mama?”
I started explaining what happened after I had dropped him off at his first day of preschool. My first full day without my boy since he was born, I think.
He scrunched his nose in dissatisfaction at the beginning of my story. “No! Tell me about MY day, Mama?” He corrected me, wanting me to recount all we had done together, like I so often did.
“I can’t, Buddy. I wasn’t with you today. You have to tell me what you did.”
He frowned again, and my heart broke a little. He didn’t like the idea or understand it much, this new situation where Mama doesn’t know every little detail in his daily life. I don’t like it much either.
I choked back the emotion welling up again, as I recalled the drop off that morning.
We sang songs in silly voices and looked for shapes out the window on our cheerful drive to preschool that day. Newly potty trained in his big boy undies. New backpack ready to go. He happily walked to his classroom, holding my hand, excited at the prospect of the large playground and new books to explore. He peered into his classroom as I signed him in, chattering away about the things he saw and asking me to join him in the fun.
“No, Buddy. Remember? You’re going to stay with your teacher and your new friends.”
That’s when it hit him. And me. The heaviness of the moment. As if we were saying a final farewell to his babyhood and ushering in his new life as real boy. Or he was moving out and going away to college. Same difference.
He clutched at me and began to cry, “Mama play with me? Mama play with me?! No Mama go!!”
I peeled his fingers off my skirt, gave him a swift, but affectionate hug and kiss, grasping at control of my own emotions.
“You’re okay, Buddy. You are going to have so much fun! I’ll be back to pick you up later! I love you!” I said with false cheer.
I turned quickly, allowing his teacher to scoop him up, and flipped my sunglasses down immediately, hiding the tears that pricked at the corners of my eyes.
“NO Mama pick me up later! Mama play with me?!” I heard his shouts and cries as I escaped down the hall.
He’s ok. He’s going to have so much fun. I repeated to myself as I retreated to the car, my heart tearing a little with each step.
I sat behind the wheel, silent for a moment as the dashboard clock switched to 8:30. I took a deep breath and turned the key in the ignition. I mourned the loss of my baby as he graduated into childhood. The guilt and the sadness came quickly with so many questions and doubts and fears all at once. Why hadn’t I treasured those moments alone with him more? Why had I wished those baby years away?
With each stoplight and bend in the road, I put distance between myself and my Little Man. I sniffled and sighed as the radio whispered softly in the background. The Starbucks Drive-Thru caught my eye, and I made the left hand turn to drown my sorrows in a Venti Iced Soy Green Tea Latte.
As I rolled away, iced beverage in hand, I turned up the radio.
And listened to grown up music. And thought grown up thoughts. And planned my grown up day, surrounded by grownups. I could go to the gym and the grocery store and the coffee shop. I could do grown up things like writing and reading and eating a warm, uninterrupted meal and taking an uninterrupted shower and going to pee without an audience!
With the window down and sun on my face, I felt like a 16-year-old with a brand new driver’s license. Out on the town, drunk on my new found freedom! The clock on the dash clicked – 8:35.
At pick up time, we pulled away from school, and my boy gazed out the window. As I drove the familiar route home, I glanced in the rear view mirror at his sweet face.
“Tell me about your day, Mama?”
I sorta left the part out about how freaking AMAZING it was without him! How I was so happy all day all alone by my own damn self, doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and sipping a latte while doing it. It was, in short, the BEST.DAY.EVER.
Except for those 5 excruciating minutes, being utterly broken hearted and shattered over leaving my baby boy behind. That was the ABSOLUTE WORST.
“Um. Mama, ran some errands. What did you do today, Buddy?” Better leave it at that.