I have been trying to prepare myself all summer long. I have given away all of his too-small clothes and shoes, gotten rid of his “baby” books. We swapped colors for Minecraft on the TV and complex Lego creations. Counting and color books have given way to “Hank the Cowdog,” “Eerie Elementary” and Junie B. Jones chapter books. We have added hair gel and mouth wash into the morning routine. He upgraded his Old Navy swim trunks to a preppy Ralph Lauren plaid, and even got himself a cool new haircut. Small steps inching toward giant steps.
When he insisted on riding the bus to school this year, I said I was onboard, and, “what a great idea” even popped out of my mouth. So I thought I was ready, ready to admit to myself that he was getting big and growing up some every day.
But when he looked at me this morning, all tan and teeth and spikey hair, I just wanted to grab him and crush him to me, wad him up and stuff him back inside so I could keep him all to myself. But I am a grown-up. So I didn’t. Instead, I kissed him and breathed in his warm buttered toast smell. I told him how proud I am of him and that it was going to be a great day.
I was anxious all afternoon, hoping that my sweet, shy boy was having a good day. Finally it was time to go get him! I’m all chill, waiting for the bus to stop. I want to run to the doors and snatch him up. But I don’t. I wait. And I wait some more. Seconds feel like hours, and I am literally starting to vibrate in my own skin. He hasn’t gotten off the bus and suddenly there are NO MORE CHILDREN inside. Panic is rising, and I am shoving The Hubs at the bus driver. Where is my son, my precious baby? WHAT have you done with him? What? You delinquent, you baby snatcher! Where is my — what, oh? Sorry. Wrong bus. Whew. That was a close one. I am so relieved my son did not see that. No one wants to have “that mom” on the first day.
The next bus rolls to a stop, and off he strolls, cool as a cucumber. I hug him anyway. He’ll get over it. Because even though I fight her all the time, I really am “that mom.”
Modeling my self-help parenting skills, I tried to ask him how his day was without using those words. You know, all low key and no pressure. Little Son is a lot like his pops. They are as introverted as I am extroverted. That means that my way of communicating with them has to be pretty much the exact opposite of my personality.
So I decide to play it cool, too. “Hey, Bud. How was your day?”
He smiles. “Good!”
I wait for it to all come tumbling out. The pretty girls and the computer lab, the new teacher, what he did at recess, the bus ride. But of course, it never comes. And I don’t push. After 16 years, I am almost finally-ish getting the hang of just being quiet.
We opt for a night out with pizza. I ply him with root beer to loosen him up a little. And sure, he can have more ranch dressing, too!
“So, Bud. Tell me the two best things about your day!”
But that must have been a little over the top because he shrugs his head down into his shoulders like some terrified turtle. I wait, not rushing to fill the silence. He screws his face all up, raising one eye brow up while flattening the other.
“Wellllllll, it’s not about school. Or learning anything.”
OK … . Still waiting.
“It was my lunch! My cafeteria food was delicious and I was actually full!” Score one for mom who opted to pre-pay for meals online so I have back-up.
“The second thing was PE because we played tag and I am one of the fastest kids in my class.” Score two for mom, who is finally seeing the competitive side of his personality develop. I know it should seem like that point should go to the boy, but, as you know, I take credit for everything that is good. “Oh. I am also the best reader, I even helped some of the other kids.” What’s that? That’s the sound of the crowd after I spike the ball, folks.
Another slice of pizza and a few more swigs of root beer, and he is ready to head home for a few minutes of Minecraft gaming with his sister. His little sister. He’s even carrying the left-overs box on his own.
So, let’s recap. He got up on time, rode the bus, liked cafeteria food, whipped up on some kids in PE and actually wanted to play with Bodacious? All on his own?
I am pretty sure that I just won the back-to-school Super Bowl. Now. Someone. Give me a diamond ring because I earned it!