I took him the Tuesday before I started my new job.
To this little red building that will become my child’s second home. We’d been a couple of times already, for brief visits. But this time was different. This time, we were there to dip a toe into this new world that we were preparing to jump into.
We arrived with just a few minutes to spare before circle time began. His classmates approached him with eagerness and curiosity. I encouraged him to say hello to his new friends, hoped that he would respond well to them. He clung to my leg, then, gradually, to just my finger. After just a few minutes, he finally met the teacher’s gaze and softly responded “Cow” to her question about the toy animal perched in her hand.
With just a bit of prodding and a promise that I would stay by his side, he gathered in a circle with the other little boys and girls. I watched him as he watched them, intrigued by the songs they attempted to sing along with the teacher. I felt him relax a bit when they began to sing 5 Little Ducks, this favorite, familiar song helping to ease a bit of tension.
Finally, it was time to head outside. He happily ran to line up at the door with the rest of the kids. He gave a quick glance over his shoulder before heading out, his eyes searching the room. Making sure I was coming, too. He beamed at me, then ran outside. As I stepped out onto the little patio, I saw a little boy grab his hand, and off they ran together.
My heart melted.
I did my best to hang back. To be there without really partaking. I watched as he ran from toy to toy, slide to slide, at a loss for what to give his attention to first. I watched him play alongside his new friends. Smiled as he determinedly drug a wheelbarrow across the yard. Cringed when he yanked a toy away from another, smaller child. Breathed a sigh of relief when he apologized and relinquished the toy at the teacher’s direction.
My heart swelled.
We headed back inside when playtime was over. He quickly noticed the lunches laid out on the table, waiting to be eaten by these hungry little ones. He ran towards the table, proclaiming that he wanted to eat. With a promise from me that we would go have lunch, he happily said his goodbyes and headed for the door.
We headed to the little restaurant hidden away in our subdivision. He ran for the door, in a rush to grab our table, momentarily confused to find someone else in “our” place. He settled on another spot and climbed up into a chair. As the waitress took our drink order, he beamed over the table at me. I thought back on the past year and a half of special lunches shared at this place by just the two of us. Suddenly, it occurred to me. There would be no more casual mid-week lunches shared before heading out to the park for a bit of playtime.
My heart cracked.
Over the next few days, I set aside my list of to-dos. Chores forgotten, errands ignored. Fears for the days to come shoved aside. Time spent snuggling. Playing. Laughing. And loving. Soaking up each and every moment shared between the two of us, while it was still just the two of us. I talked a lot with him about what was to come.
When the day finally came, I breathed a sigh of relief as I headed out the door after dropping him off. We both handled it far better than I’d anticipated. And when I picked him up at the end of the day, I found him happily playing outside. I stood, watching, for nearly a full minute before he noticed me, then gave a casual wave of hello before running around to climb back up the slide.
And that’s when I knew. We’re all going to be just fine. I can feel it in my heart.