I don’t know if you’re a fan of “Battlestar Galactica,” the science fiction television series, but there was a line in the rebooted version that kept repeating itself in my head all week:
“All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.” To be fair, it’s actually a repurposed quote from “Peter Pan” creator J.M. Barrie, but it still applies as my youngest son entered kindergarten this week. I couldn’t help but flashback 43 years as he prepared for his own first day.
Ms. Mink was my teacher’s name, and I clutched my mother’s hand with the clawed panic of a baby bird nudged to the edge of the nest and encouraged to take flight. Of course, I carried around a healthy weight of existential dread even back then, which I’m sure played a factor in my addiction later in life. If that’s the only warning sign I have to go on (it’s not, of course), then I think Cullen will be just fine.
He showed no signs of nervousness. In fact, he was more annoyed that he had to pose for mom’s “first day of kindergarten” picture than anything else. Of course, it helps that he’s attending a smaller, private school where he’s gone for several years now. There won’t be much change for him, and if anything, he’s excited that as a kindergartener, he no longer has to take naps.
I, on the other hand, want to hold him back. To hold on. Not to keep him from growing and maturing, but because every hug around his skinny frame pushes my arms a little farther apart, and I’m reminded how powerless I am over time and the eventual transformation of my little boy into an independent, self-sufficient human being.
Every parent faces down that realization, I suppose — the desperate, aching need to somehow preserve him as a wide-eyed little boy, free of fear and ignorant of the hard ways of this world, wanting to keep him from it as long as possible. Logically, I know that there are some things he needs to experience, that lessons learned today will prepare him for those harsh realities to come ... but damn, it’s hard.
I looking forward to our continuing journey, him and me, but I dread the storms on the horizon. Right now, he’s oblivious to most of the worries that I have. He watches “Mickey and the Roadster Racers” and bounces on a giant purple yoga ball and wrestles with his puppy; I read online news stories of random acts of violence and catastrophe and all manner of things that frighten me to my core. And I worry. I worry all the time. It doesn’t consume me, but it’s always there, ticking away in the back of my head like the swinging pendulum of a metronome.
This, I’ve learned with my oldest son and continue to learn with my daughter, is what it means to be a parent: To love a part of yourself so much that your head becomes a cauldron of fears both irrational and uncontrollable. To want so preserve them in a block of ice, so that they stay 5 forever and protected from everything harmful in this world. To constantly struggle with letting go, letting God and accepting that everything will be just as it should be.
All I know is this — I get better every day at the letting go, because I realize that all that fear and worry does nothing but rob me of the right here and the right now. The little moments that I’ll tell him about with a smile in the years to come — how he loves Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing,” as long as it’s the version from the animated film “Sing” ... how his favorite store in the world is Target, because that’s where all the cool toys are ... how when I pester him by intentionally referring to his toys figures by their incorrect names, he shrieks in rage ... those are the little moments I cherish.
Those are the times I should be living for, the ones I should be expecting, because without a doubt they will happen over and over again throughout his life. There will be little adventures and inside jokes and amazing experiences that are ours and ours alone, and if I’m preoccupied with worry or fear, then those times are wasted. They are not fully lived, and if my love for him has taught me anything, it’s that life is precious.
Fear is a natural human emotion, but so is faith. Today, I will have faith to walk through, to let go of, those fears. I do that for him, because he’s already doing it for himself. He didn’t seem to give kindergarten a second thought, and when his teacher posted pictures of the class to social media, he was scowling at having to sit through another portrait session.
Clearly, his fear was gone. I’m still working on mine. I don’t know that it’ll ever go away, but I’m grateful for faith and acceptance and love today to help me get through it. Here’s your Friday motivation, friends.