Today was the last day of kindergarten for my middle boy, my James.
He goes to school one day a week, and it has been SUCH a wonderful, nurturing experience for him. His teacher was everything you could ever hope for – smart, patient, cheerful and with a passion for little ones. Our boy was happy to go to school every single Thursday and was always bubbling over with stories of his day when I picked him up.
So, as exciting as the big “graduation day” was, it was also bittersweet for my guy.
We heard his class sing their songs and watched them each get their diplomas and throw their hats in the air.
We visited his classroom and peeled his art off the walls to stuff into an overladen, now frayed, broken-zippered backpack.
Afterward we went swimming and horsed around.
Then, together, we made his favorite dinner (homemade pizza), toasting the end of his first year in school.
Over the course of the evening though, something happened to my guy.
He got surly and teary. He fought with his brothers and mouthed off to his mama and papa, swung from laughing to slamming doors and then back again.
I was ready to pull out all of my hair, and a few handfuls of his too!
But then, at bedtime, he opted to sleep in his own room. This is something he has not done in months and months. He ALWAYS sleeps in his brother’s top bunk.
He cried and cried, but remained firm that he needed to sleep in his room. And then it dawned on me. He is crossing a line.
My boy saw today as something monumental, a move along the path to manhood. I don’t know if he’ll continue to sleep in his own room or not, but it was clearly very important for him to do it on THIS night, of all nights.
I went into his bedroom and lay in his bed with him. I held him and told him how proud of him I am, what a treasure he is, how smart and how kind, and how he is everything I ever hoped I’d have in a little boy. He sobbed – body-shaking, lip quivering sobs, but he did not know why. He said, “I just feel sad.”
Poor guy. It is so hard to grow up. It is so hard to WANT to grow up, but at the same time to know that what is lost can never be had again. Even if he couldn’t say it, it was apparent that he is, in some small way, understanding that childhood is passing by.
Kindergarten is done.
Before he nodded off though, we talked about how “His mercies are new every morning,” how tomorrow is a new day, full of adventure. We talked about all the fun to come in first grade (he will still go to his one day a week school), and about all our plans for the summer. His little shoulders relaxed. I rubbed his forehead until the lines smoothed away and his breathing slowed. He giggled and we hugged, and he went to sleep smiling.
It was a big, big day for a big, BIG boy.
But not too big.