I wasn't expecting yesterday's drop-off to be easy. Even if there were reports that things are getting better I know from past experience that when Mama is there the heartache, it is profound.
We drop Keaton off at class and the boys hug goodbye, "have fun, Hutt!" his big brother calls to him. As the bottoms of his eyes begin to puff we turn and walk into the hallway; with his still-chubby hand he reaches up and clasps mine, "maybe school isn't for me," he says.
I take him into my arms and we look at the artwork on the wall. We talk about it only being a couple of hours: you get to play with your friends while mommy goes grocery shopping and then I'll be back for you. You'll have fun.
I hesitate saying things 'will be okay' because I know the throbbing in my heart that is to come and while I, as an adult, can understand it, as a 3-year old, I'm just not sure.
We hang up his coat, find his name, and talk to his teachers. As the minutes wear on the "I want you, Moms" become stronger. More children arrive, more parents depart and with each one he pulls me a little closer.
I know full well what is happening, I know the longer I stay the harder it is going to be, and yet I can't help myself because how does one walk away from a child who's heart is beginning to throb? I pick him up again. I whisper in his ear. I promise I'll be back.
A glance at the clock tells me we are just a few minutes to the start of class and I know, in order to give him time to calm down before the lesson begins, that it is now or never.
I nod to his teacher, an unspoken agreement that says, "I'm ready," and she reaches out for him. When he realizes what is happening he tries to cling tighter, "Mama!" he cries and at the moment he slips completely from my grip, our eyes meet.
The whimpering, the crying, the screaming, I can handle that. But that look in his eyes? That, I can not.
Why? Why are you leaving me? They scream.
I duck my head and turn to walk out the door. I can not look back because if I do I will run to him, pull him into my arms and flee.
The tears are running down my face as I exit and walk down the hall, still hearing his cries from inside the room.
Every teacher I see on my way out assures me it will be okay. While I believe he will stop crying and he will enjoy himself, I just don't know....my heart is conflicted on it being 'okay'.
I spent the next two hours in a complete daze; my heart was throbbing, both figuratively and literally. Searching for an outfit to wear to this weekend's wedding I realized later that I bought two of the same shirt.
Keaton and I wait for him with our backs against the wall, lined up among the other parents and grandparents. The door finally creaks open and his teacher starts calling names. Hutton is third in line.
As he rounds the corner into the hallway he spots us and a huge smile spreads across his face:
"I love you, Mom! Can you put my jacket in my backpack?"
I scoop him into my arms because I just can't resist. He chatters all the way to the car, "we heard a choo choo!" and as I buckle him in I breath a sigh of relief.
But my heart? It just doesn't recover as quickly - I was emotionally drained and absolutely spent for the remainder of the day. And if I, as an adult, feel that way, what does this do to my 3-year old? I just don't know, I don't know if this is okay.