I’d been dreaming about it for years.
The day when both our kids would head off to school and leave me with six and a half glorious, peaceful, kid-free hours to do as I pleased (i.e., work, nap, read, nap again, repeat.). For stay-at-home parents like my wife and me, the first day of school is basically a national holiday. The first day that all of your kids go to school, on the other hand, is like every single holiday wrapped into one.
With unlimited margaritas.
After a surprisingly drama-free breakfast, we took the standard first-day-of-school photo on the front porch before heading off for their school a couple blocks away. Boogieface was excited about the 2nd Grade. My son, however, was a little hesitant about starting kindergarten, so we weren’t sure how it was going to go. The only thing we were pretty sure about was that the phone calls from his teacher would be coming by the end of the week.
When we got to his classroom, The Animal stopped dead outside the door. “I’m not going in,” he said, standing in the threshold, his brand new R2-D2 book bag resting on his back.
Uh, oh, I thought. Here we go.
But then, not two minutes later, he was sitting on the floor with his new friends building a castle, his first-day nervousness a thing of the past.
The kindergarten classroom was alive with activity as the students bounced around and got used to their new surroundings. Meanwhile, parents looked on, some with tears in their eyes, others with wide grins on their faces (guess which one I was).
“Have a great first day, buddy!” I said, giving my boy a big hug and a kiss before walking out of the room singing “Zippity Do Dah!” under my breath. “I’ll see you after school.”
Six and a half glorious hours from now!
Cassie, not ready to let her little boy go just yet, stuck around a few minutes more and made sure he had all of his supplies ready to go at his desk.
“Com’ on!” I mouthed to her from out in the hallway. “Let’s go! Before he changes his mind!”
Two years before, when we dropped off Boogieface for her first day of kindergarten, Cassie and I were both overcome with sadness, wiping back tears as we left our little princess behind. But this time, for some reason, it seemed much easier. At least it was for me.
“Aren’t you sad,” said Cass as we walked back to our house. “Our babies are all grown up.”
“Heck no!” I replied. “Good riddance. Just think—12 more years and we’ll really be free!” Of course, I was just kidding.
It wasn’t 30 seconds after we got home, however, that I noticed how quiet it was. It was eerie. There was no one in the living room playing video games and shouting at the TV. No one up in the playroom making a gigantic mess. No one yelling to me from the other room to get him some more tea. It was so peaceful. So quiet. So unbearably empty. All of a sudden I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.
What was wrong with me? This is what I had been wishing for. Yet, here I was, devastated and — I can’t believe I’m saying this — missing my wild little Animal and all his craziness.
Suddenly six and a half hours seemed like a really, really long time.
Later that afternoon, we walked back to the school. As I stood outside with the other parents, I couldn’t wait to see my kids, give them both a big hug, and hear all about their day. Then the principal opened the front door, and I caught a glimpse of The Animal standing inside the lobby. When he spotted me across the street, he beamed and gave me the peace sign, looking like a little Nixon bidding farewell after resigning the Presidency.
Finally they got the go ahead, and he came running out to me as I braced for a long-anticipated, much-needed hug. But then, just as he got close, he slowed to a walk and a frown grew on his face.
“Daddy!” he said, his tone thick with frustration. “That peanut butter banana you gave me for lunch was terrible! It looked just like chocolate throw up!”
And with that, once again I was longing for the silence. ~
Copyright © 2015 Valentine J. Brkich