Tuesday (8/25) was Conner's first day of kindergarten.
It didn't go much like I had always anticipated, starting with the night before. We spent Monday at Mom's house, helping to go through some of MeeMaw's things, finalizing the obituary, booking hotel rooms for friends and family, and making decisions like which flowers would adorn her casket. The plan was to leave in time to get home, chill for a little while, eat a good dinner, take baths, and get to bed at a good time.
But, there were kinks in the plan. Life happened, and we got home later than I wanted to, Micah ended up staying with Mom and Dad, and the good one-of-Conner's-favorite-dinner plans fell through. We did end up having a good dinner -- but not necessarily one of Conner's favorites. It was like pulling teeth to get him to eat. And even at that, we were unsuccessful. I don't really remember what happened after that, except that we didn't get Conner to bed at the time we wanted to.
I remember lying in the bed next to him, cuddling as he went to sleep. A thousand things were flying through my mind -- lots of things I wanted to make sure and remind him of in the morning, several things that I wished I would have done a better job of teaching him over the summer, grief over his growing up and loss of the nothing-but-play life of a preschooler, grief over my MeeMaw, how I really thought I would be just fine to lie there next to him cuddling forever and never having to wake up to face real life again.
But it wasn't so....I got up, finished what I needed to, and much later than I wanted to, finally went to bed...
...and Tuesday morning I woke up in a panic. My alarm had apparently gone off 45 minutes earlier. I guess I had turned it off in my sleep because I certainly don't remember it. No getting myself ready before I worried about everyone else. No wonderful hot breakfast for the first day of school ever. Just hurried throwing everyone together (good thing it was only two kids instead of three!) and a half-eaten bowl of Fruit Loops.
We loaded up in the van at just the right time though. We got to school not too early, not too late. We helped Conner find his class table in the cafeteria......and then we hugged him, kissed him, and walked out the door without him. I got a little teary-eyed, but not too bad. I was proud of myself.
Then Joey and I were off to the Moms and Muffins breakfast. I did good holding myself together -- until it was my turn to introduce myself and tell about my morning. The tears started burning, but I was able to keep it short and sweet and somehow keep the tears to a minimum. It's a good thing too, because I'm afraid that if I'd let go of myself it would have been really ugly. I couldn't stop thinking about how Conner had told me the day before that he was a little bit sad about kindergarten because it was so much longer than preschool, and that he was really going to miss me. (Crazy kid knows how to pull at those heart strings, doesn't he?!) And on top of everything else, I couldn't stop thinking about how that morning and the night before hadn't gone at all like I had always thought it would. And I couldn't stop thinking about how disappointed my MeeMaw would have been with me -- I had let her death and my own hurt and the crazy time between a death and a funeral affect Conner's first day of school. She had been a school teacher for 35 years, and a Sunday school teacher for probably twice that long. She had taught me better than that, and it breaks my heart to think that I had let both she and Conner down. I know it's a bit irrational -- but grief usually is. And I'm carrying around a double dose of it right now...
So I left the breakfast, ran some errands, went to lunch with some friends, and got Joey home for a nap. And instead of packing our bags (we were leaving to go to the Family Visitation a couple of hours after Conner got home from school), instead of making some wonderfully delicious homemade cookies for my new kindergartener to snack on when he got home...instead of doing the things I needed to for everyone else, I just decided that I had already screwed everything up, I might as well just make a day of it. So I took a nap, too. It was a bit selfish, but is was so wonderful. Grieving hurts, but for me -- when I let myself do it -- it typically makes for some good sleep.
I woke up just in time to wake Joey up from his nap and pick up Conner.
He had a wonderful day, and greeted me with a beaming smile, a "Kindergarten Rocks" hat that he had made sitting upon his head. It was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I hadn't done for him what I wanted to, but just as I should have known, he had a great day anyway. What an awesome kid.
He was perfectly happy with the Little Debbie brownies that I gave him when he got home (probably happier than he would have been with homemade cookies, actually), and told me all about his day. He told me that it had actually been a happy and a sad day. He had gotten a blue mark in his take-home folder -- the best color you can get. He had gone to recess twice, and had a wonderful lunch in the cafeteria. He actually got to put his own food on his tray!! "But," he said, "the sad part is that there was only basketball with no basketballs, and follow-the-leader at PE. And when I was outside I missed you so much, Mom, that I was crying a little bit. And nobody cared." Luckily I was emotionally exhausted at this point and was able to just laugh. Upon further questioning, "basketball with no basketballs" just meant that there were basketball goals in the gym and no basketballs out. And I'm still not sure if the crying on the playground really happened, or if he was just trying to make sure that I knew that he missed me.
And then when he was done telling me all about it, he called Bret and told it all again. He really did have a great day. In spite of me. The kid really is growing up, and so far I like the person he is becoming. I mean seriously, a kid who sees himself like this isn't doing too bad!