Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Changing of the Guard

Today I left my children.

I left them for nearly seven hours. And from the looks of things, I will leave them five days a week for the next ten months. I left them at a school.

Of course this doesn't sound so dramatic if you don't know I have homeschooled them for five years and neither of them - ages nine and six - have ever been to school before.

After a harrowing school year here at home last year while trying to juggle mine and hubby's continuing educations and the kids' educations and hubby's job and all the other stuff life has to offer, we made a decision to send the kids to school on a two-year plan. In the span of that two years I would return full-time to finish my degree. At the end of that two years my oldest would be ready to start middle school and my youngest - age three now - would be ready for Kindergarten. The perfect time for reevaluation.

Much struggle came with that decision, but in the end we did feel it was the right one. So in May, the plan was made. As long as that plan stayed looming in the future, it was easy to live with. Kind of like that long distance relative you send a Christmas card to but never really want to invite over to stay for the holidays. It was great in theory.

I started feeling some nerves about its impending approach last week, waking up in the middle of the night in a panic, sometimes not able to go back to sleep. However, I was holding up pretty well. Surprisingly well. I was able to talk about it without getting emotional even though everyone else seemed ready for me to break down at any given minute. Friends called and emailed me, poised to step in and pick up the pieces, but the pieces never fell. I even managed to make it through enrollment and school supply shopping without even a hint of drama.

But it was very surprising - nay, freaky - that this morning while I walked them to their classrooms in their tidy uniforms and bulging backpacks, I didn't even feel a lump in my throat. I even worried a bit at my lack of emotion.

But see, that's the great thing about denial. I never really believed I would be leaving them. I never really believed the day would come.

It was only after I kissed my daughter's soft cheek and began taking those first steps away from her to the double doors that would separate us did I come to feel what had been hiding beneath all along. I taught them their letter sounds. I showed them how to put them together to form words. I made paper solar systems and peanut butter playdough. I was there for every lightbulb moment to see the spark of discovery ignited.

For the first time in their lives, I had made a commitment to turn those moments over to someone else.

My steps became quicker and more frantic as I raced against the tears I could no longer control. When I arrived at the van, hubby had the tissue box ready. He knew it had to come. Not sure why I didn't. Walking out of that school and coming home without them was...wrong. Leaving them there without knowing what they were doing for seven hours with people they didn't know...it was wrong.

Even though I know it was right.

I have applied makeup twice today in the hopes of fooling my face into feeling good. But it has only been washed away.

I miss them.
The picture above was taken just before I walked them into the building. I would like to tell you that they are indeed crying at the prospect of being apart from me, but the truth is that the sun was in their eyes. I would have taken another picture, but they were in a hurry. Sniffle.