As I walked around the side of the car, I tightened the sling, ensuring the baby was snug on my hip.
Her bare legs poked out, as the sun beat down.
I opened my son’s door and unbuckled his car seat.
He climbed down, eager to head inside.
He didn’t want to miss a moment.
We held hands as we crossed the parking lot. But as soon as we reached the sidewalk, he dropped my hand and ran ahead.
I couldn’t believe we had reached this day.
It seems like just yesterday when, seven months pregnant, I carried him inside for his first day of preschool.
When he shyly clung to my hand.
When I stayed, at first.
When I hid in the building, watching him on the playground.
And, finally, when I left.
Only one of us shed tears that day.
So much has happened this year.
Finger painting. Trike riding. Play-Doh.
The regular reminder it’s time to return the toys on the playground: “Calling all lawnmowers.”
The mountain of artwork.
Paint on his hands and his shoes and his face. The smell lingering in his hair and on his clothes.
“Keep your hands to yourself.”
Strummy, the guitar.
“I can just pretend.”
The Ants Go Marching. Chicken Soup with Rice. The Head and Shoulders Chant, with its dance.
“Can I have a turn?”
Potty training. Hand washing. “All by myselfs.”
“Raise your hand and say please if you want more.”
“Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.”
After that first day, he never looked back at drop-off.
He entered the classroom, eager for each day’s adventures.
I sent him the morning the baby was born, as I lay recuperating from my c-section.
He learned that he had a baby sister when his father came for him.
He was proud to take her to school, to meet his teachers and friends.
His teachers helped him learn to be confident, independent. To work through his attention issues when the baby was born.
To practice social niceties.
To ask questions.
We chose a cooperative preschool. I loved getting to share his first experience with school, to see him make friendships and learn to interact.
To watch his face light up when he learned something new and his eyes focus, intent on story time.
I came back early on that last day, baby on my hip, to spend a little time in the classroom.
I wanted to take some pictures of the children, of him.
And to just be there one last time.
As we prepared to leave, they handed me his canvas bag, brimming over with his latest artwork, and a plastic bag full of spare clothes that no longer fit and diapers he no longer wears.
He carried a picture collage his teachers made of his year.
He hugged his head teacher.
He told her he loved her.
And then we left.
When we got home, I looked at the “hat” he made for his final art project.
And then I unpacked the plastic bag.
I remembered when he and I first packed it. We had talked about what school was and decorated it with stickers, to help him be excited for his first day.
And now that year is over.
I’ve told him we’re going to take a break from school for the summer, but he doesn’t really understand.
He can’t comprehend that he will have a different teacher next year.
That this time in his life is over.
And, when he’s older, he won’t remember anything from this year.
As I put away the clothes and carried the diapers to the baby’s room, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia.
I’m sad that the year is over.
Sad that he’s going to a new class next year.
And sad that the little boy who I carried into the school and who helped me put stickers all over the plastic bag doesn’t live in my house anymore.
It’s a silly thing, I suppose, to be nostalgic that his first year of preschool is over. But I’m a mom, so I have that privilege.