The Sign- a goodbye tradition
The walk to school each morning isn’t long enough. I understand better now, why my son has a million and one stall tactics for bedtime each night. One more drink, a sudden episode of utter starvation, a missing stuffed animal that he simply cannot sleep without, a request for more snuggles...the list goes on and on. He loves life and he doesn’t want to miss out on anything. If he hears laughter after he’s been tucked into bed, he’ll come running, footed pajamas shuffling along the wood floors, to the living room.
“Hey!” he’ll say, “Why are you having fun without me?” He’ll look at me with a little half smile, a twinkle in his eye, and crawl onto my lap while his Daddy tells him to get back to bed. I can’t resist his charm and he knows it. He usually gets a few extra minutes of snuggles this way.
I understand better now. Just as he loves life to the fullest and wants to make the day stretch out for as long as possible, I love him. I love my time with him. I’ve loved these beautiful magical days of his early childhood that are passing much too quickly. I love my walks to school with him each morning. I want to stretch out the time as long as possible. Sometimes, when he forgets, he’ll let me hold his hand. I can actually feel my heart at these times, and I’ll think of my love, flowing from my heart to my hands, and into his.
“I know the rest of the way.” He says, when we reach the gate at the edge of the school.
“That’s alright, I’ll walk you a little further.” I answer, and we keep walking. We reach the playground.
“I can go to the line by myself.”
He’s already walking away. I think he’s afraid that I’ll try to hug him in front of his friends. I don’t. But it takes a tremendous effort on my part. Once again, I can feel my heart.
He turns around.... my youngest, my sweet blue eyed, blonde, freckle faced boy. I see confidence in his young face and excitement for the day ahead. I hold up my hand and sign, I love you. He knows the sign because I’ve been using it with his big sister for years now, whenever I have to drop her off somewhere. Now it’s his turn. He gives me his impish half smile, eyes twinkling, and holds up his own small hand in the sign, then runs off to meet his friends.
I wrote this when my son was a first grader. He's now in 5th grade, walking to school by himself most days. It got easier, saying goodbye- not because he's loved any less, but because I'm more experienced with being a mom of older kids now. I'm thankful I cherished their early childhood, but I've learned that with each new twist and turn on their road to independence, there's plenty more to enjoy.
This essay is an excerpt from, Holding Hands: Essays on Love and Family, a short e-book, my free gift to you when you subscribe to my monthly newsletter. If you would like to read more like this, go here to sign up.