Today is your first day of school. In time, you will come to forget this day but it’s a memory I will carry with me always – like the first time you said I love you or the first time you walked across the living room to me, on December 22, 2010. You weren’t quite a year old. You only had four teeth. I can’t begin to calculate the number of steps you’ve taken since.
I’m sure you’ll learn how to count that high soon.
It’s not time for you to wake just yet, so I’ll drink my coffee here in the warmth of my quilt and think of all that’s behind us and all that lies ahead. You will make friends and lose friends; you’ll like kids and be disliked by others; you’ll have teachers who change your life and you’ll have teachers you can’t wait to get away from; there will be failed tests, forgotten homework, lost backpacks and one hundred thousand crises that make your world implode in the moment and wash away with the next breath.
The next few years will be a roller coaster, and – just like at the amusement park last month – I’ll be right beside you.
In a few minutes, I’ll begin the first of many battles – battles that will rage for the next twelve years as I try to get you up and out the door on time each morning. Waking up is hard, sometimes. Going to school is hard sometimes, too, but it is a wonderful gift and an absolute privilege to learn in a safe place. Enjoy it. You are about to make memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. Trust me, I know.
Last night you told me you were nervous. I know you are. And I’m nervous for you even though I know you’ll do well. You bravely told me you’d make a thousand new friends, and I bet you will. You’re one of the bravest, friendliest, smartest, most wonderful people I know. You’re going to do great. You’re always more prepared for these things than I am. Like when you officially got your preschool cap and gown and I got red eyes from crying.
My eyes are filled with tears of love and happiness, Mr. F, as I think of your preschool “congra-duation” in June. My heart was so full I thought I might burst, and I will never forget the way it felt to see you so proud of yourself. I can still hear you saying you couldn’t wait to “congraduate” from college. Don’t rush it. It already feels like we’ve raced through one chapter.
Last night before I kissed you goodnight, I asked you what you think you’ll be when you grew up. You pondered for a moment, and began to say “firefighter” before stopping and telling me you’d like to be an archaeologist or a policeman. Or a dinosaur. (Spoiler: You will not be a dinosaur.) But you will be amazing. I know this because you already are.
Today is your first day of school. It’s another first. Another big day. Another change. We’ve had a lot of those, you and I. We’re going to have a lot more, I’m sure. There will be your first report card and your first essay; your first note from the teacher and your first failure. There will be fights, mark my words, and while I know there will be times that I’m disappointed with your mark or your work or your attitude, I will always be proud of you. Always.
As I savour the last sips of my coffee, F, I have only one wish for you.
I wish that you always remain the little boy who stopped in his tracks one afternoon when a ladybug landed on his hand and marvelled at it. There is no greater thing than a love of learning, of exploring the world around you and I hope that never leaves you. The world is full of ladybugs and lessons, my little F, and they are all amazing – even the really hard ones. Especially those.
Today is your first day of school. You might be a big boy in the world today, F, but you will always be my baby. And I love you, to the moon and back… times infinity. And then some.