It’s my baby’s first day of kindergarten, and I am not there. I am not packing his lunch, nor am I strapping him into his 5-point harness on the little yellow bus that will drive him to school. I won’t be there to witness if he has a meltdown. I know he likely will fall to the floor in tears, just as the bus is approaching. He will be kicking and screaming, due to the anxiety and stress this new situation.
While change is hard for any child, it is even more challenging for my child with Fragile X Syndrome. Not witnessing this stressful scene means that I won’t burst into tears myself once he’s gone, which is probably just as well.
It’s my baby’s first day of kindergarten, and I am not there. I’m trying to assuage my guilt: Without me at home, there’s less anxiety (my own!), so he will not be as stressed. And my husband is an incredible partner and an amazing parent, so I never worry when I’m not there for a few days.
But this is huge! It’s my baby’s first day of kindergarten! And I am not there! I am away at a professional development conference.
Bad mother. Shameful. You should feel guilty. Professional development is great, but your kid only starts kindergarten once (we hope). No one ever says on their deathbed that they wished they’d spent more time at the office (or a conference). So how can I do this? How can I be here—anywhere, really—but not there?
As we send our children off into the world, our prayer is that they are blessed with both roots and wings. We want them to know who they are and where they come from. We want them to put family first and to adhere to our values. And yet, we want them to be the best version of themselves that they can be. We want them to soar, to chart new paths, to grow and discover. It is every parent’s hope for a child. We pray that we are blessed to witness our children become real people, with their own hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.
So, too, I hope that my children are eventually able to recognize my roots and wings. Family certainly comes first; there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my beautiful boys. My “wings” are—to a large extent—also intended to help our family, as professional development helps me to become a better professional, one who might seek even more opportunities to support our family. Finally, I hope that my children learn to understand that when I am able to grow and discover, I am more fulfilled as a person, and then I become a better mother, one who is confident in her work and competent in her home.
Yes, it’s my baby’s first day of kindergarten. And the good news is that my conference ends today, so I’ll be home to tuck him into bed. First I’ll ask him all about his day, his first day of kindergarten.