You started your first day of school today, Hudson Bear. Last night I cried and told your dad I wanted to keep you home for another year. Up until now, you’ve been my early morning snuggler, grocery shopping assistant, and daily lunch date. I haven’t set an alarm in four years thanks to you, you early bird. When I haven’t gotten enough sleep the night before, I ask if we can snuggle for a bit, and not once have you objected. I wrap my arm around your tummy and we lie on your twin bed facing your wall with the map of the world on it. I think about the places you’ll go until you announce, “That’s enough snuggling, Mama!” On Mondays – grocery day – you always insist on pushing your own miniature grocery cart, and I always end up guiding it to the cash registers when your arms get tired and your belly fills with goodies from the sample counter. Together, we paint tiny masterpieces using the rocks in our backyard for canvases. We carry out sword fights with colored pencils and build airplanes out of cardboard.
Looking back on the past four years, most of the days blur together. It’s hard to remember where one ends and the other begins. And strange to think that only now is your brain cementing your earliest memories. So all that’s left of our time together will be what’s tucked into the corners of my own mind. But baby bear, I hope you do remember. If not the daily goings on, then just the feelings. The feeling of a safe place to return after a long day out. The feeling of a full belly and a warm towel after bath time. The feeling of a mama who kisses you so many times it’s embarrassing. I hope that even if you don’t remember that time we went on a scavenger hunt and you scraped your knee and I had to carry your 38-pound body all the way back home, that you do remember what it felt like to tuck your head between my chin and my shoulder as I wiped away your colossal tears. Mostly, I just hope you remember how wildly this mama loved you.
Dad convinced me that it is time. Time to give new people the privilege of knowing and loving you. Time to learn and grow. And time for us to see who you will become. As we unbuckle you from your carseat in the parking lot of your new school, you whisper, “I’ll miss you mama.” I tell you I’ll miss you too and that it’s just because we love each other so much. I expected you might cry or scream or run back to the car as you’ve done at so many church nursery drop-offs. Instead when we get to room four, you just hug me so hard I let out a little gasp, and I kiss you goodbye. I watch from the window as your teacher offers you a book from the classroom library. You look timid but brave. I wait by the window hoping you won’t see me and get second thoughts about this whole school thing. You don’t, and so your dad buckles your baby sister into her carseat and we drive away. You probably won’t remember us tucking you into bed on your first day of school, but when you ask for that extra minute of snuggle time and just one more song, tonight we’ll indulge you. And I’ll commit it to memory for the both of us.