About a week ago, after I dropped my not-so-little three-year-old off to preschool, I was pondering on a flurry of thoughts as I drove through the parking lot in my car--thoughts of parental pride, excitement, and optimism of my preschooler's experience with his new routine and environment. That day, I explained to him that he would go on a field trip with his classmates.
"You're going to ride a bus today to visit the apple farm. Won't that be fun?"
"Listen to your teachers, okay? Please follow directions."
"You get to ride a school bus today...isn't that cool?"
"You're gonna love field trips, buddy."
It's hard to say which of us was more excited about the school bus because as I waited at the red light, I heard the low grumble of an engine with a half-sized yellow school bus that followed it. The bus passed me and continued its journey up the hill towards the school. My heart jumped and I immediately felt a thrill like electricity in my bones. Then, without a moment's notice, water started jerking out of my eyes. I wasn't being emotional because "my baby" was now in school and doing the stuff "big boys" do, it had more to do with the fact that I had arrived in that certain niche in adulthood.
"I am old. Like really old." I thought. An unexpected feeling, that's for sure.
I don't remember other milestones in adulthood that impressed me as much: living on my own in another state after high school graduation, leaving everything again to serve an LDS mission, getting my first job after college and becoming financially independent from my parents, getting married, having a baby--those events were expected to be life-changing. And I still felt young...young enough to continue feeling inexperienced and incapable as a growing adult. Now, I'm pushing 32 and my child has embarked in school--if you call less than 2 hours a day for three days a week "school". My world has now shifted from a controlled home environment of my constant teaching, disciplining, instruction, and love to a new environment with outsiders who are taking quantitative time to shape my child too. (That proverb of "it takes a village to raise a child" comes up to mind.) It's taking a little bit of bravery on my part to hand my most precious possession to someone else. And from what I've observed so far, I like what I've seen.
And her? Indy thinks she, too, belongs in preschool the way she sets foot into the classroom behaving like a pop star. Everyone there knows her name. From showing the teachers the hat on her head to being stubborn about heading out the door, this girl makes her presence known. School for her is right around the corner.
She's becoming an independent and vivacious toddler. I love it.
Maybe I'm oddly unemotional about my kids moving on to bigger things. I get nostalgic for their tininess like any parent, but I am more eager to push them to grow and learn about the big wide world out there. What has surprised me is this new chapter in life. The responsibility for my kids is now newly anchored with the involvement of others; our lives will be getting more complex from here on out. Parent Teacher Conferences are for those old and seasoned parents. Am I really there now? Gosh, I'm old. What next? Will I wake up to teenagers and feel really, really old? I have lines on my face and silver hairs spotting my hairline. I don't need any more reminders. I never knew that becoming aware of myself growing up could be, well, trippy.
Here's to getting old.