I am a twenty-something mother of two when my oldest son starts school. He meanders onto the playground and into the whirling sea of child-monsters who are howling and flailing on the concrete in front of the building. I am air-starved, despite the cool breeze that is playing inside our shirts as if we are hand puppets.
This is one of those slow-motion moments in which a data file of emotions, heartbreak, fear and anxiety, downloads into my consciousness. I feel it all sink in as I see him sporting new jeans and a collared shirt, swimming in the bulk of his backpack. My little boy is going somewhere I cannot go.
I feel my hand squeeze his a little tighter. I watch him pull free and march away like a battery-operated toy. I’d stocked his cartoon backpack with all of the requisite items: 2-ply Kleenex, a pack of sharpened pencils, wide-ruled paper, a box of crayons and all of the essentials on the kindergarten list. But these things are not enough.
Panic forms a clot in my throat and I consider taking him home, walking him right back to our house where he belongs because he is not ready for school.
Still, I know the truth: He is plenty ready—I am not.
I hadn’t anticipated it being so hard, had not imagined I would be one of those nervous moms. I am an off-brand diaper mom, a cereal-for-dinner mom. But somehow a sharp prong of fear has perforated my sanity and strung me up like a largemouth bass.
Motherhood is madness and heartbreak.
I stand on the playground, watching him integrate, watching him enter a world I will never fully know, swirling with new faces, activities and ideas. The bell rings and he looks back for a moment, his eyes steady and firmly saluting their goodbye.
My youngest son and I walk home, his pudgy legs stomping on the sidewalk because he is a boy who insists on doing everything hard, hammer-like. He is 3 years old and soon he will leave me too. He will march away like his brother and not look back, a kindergarten robot ready to assert his independence. Tears come as I think of this, and the sky begins to bellow. We have several blocks left till home and I feel a cool cascade of rain. In an instant, we are saturated, slogging our limp jeans and waterlogged tennis shoes down the street. My little boy squeals, shoots his hands in the air and says, “Run, Mama.”
“No baby,” I say. “I’d rather go slow.”
This post originally appeared on Rica Writes. It has been reprinted with permission.
Rica Keenum is a senior staff writer for an award-winning magazine in Florida. Her latest book is Petals of Rain: A Mother’s Memoir a tale of love and loss and the journey from heartbreak to hope—a compelling read for every struggling mother. Find her online at Rica Writes, and on Facebook and Instagram.