We’re two weeks into preschool, or as Chris has been calling it for months, “The beginning of the end.” It’s not that he’s against preschool (although he’s made it pretty clear he’d rather I homeschool our boys than send them anywhere), he’s just against time. Whenever I say “Can you believe how big Kostyn is getting?” he counters with, “I know, I hate it.”
Don’t get me wrong, he manages to live in the moment, soaking up every bit of who they are today. But he really misses their smallness. Me, not so much.
My only trepidation about preschool was due to Kostyn’s own wavering enthusiasm. He was excited about all the fun to be had there, but definitely didn’t like the answers to the inevitable “Is Evan gonna be there? Are you gonna stay with me?” questions. Luckily any lingering doubts were quelled during the open house the day before school started. After he played, colored, spotted his very own cubby and coat hook, was given a tote bag with his name on it, and met two of his teachers, he stood in the middle of the room and announced, with his arms wide and his smile wider, “I didn’t know about preschool, but now that I’m here, I LOVE IT!” He got lots of smiles, and a few funny looks, and I just kept thinking “How is this my kid?”
Everyone told me I would cry when preschool started, and though I felt barely an ounce of “Where does the time go??” nostalgia tugging at my heartstrings in the days leading up to The Day, people were so sure of my impending breakdown that I started to wonder if I should maybe bring tissues just in case.
When The Moment of The Day arrived, he and I were both all smiles, which frankly I started feeling a little guilty about. Like, shouldn’t I be a mess right now? And come to think of it, shouldn’t he? Won’t he even miss me? Why am I excited about him leaving me, starting a new phase in his life, learning and growing WITHOUT ME? As a stay-at-home mom, I’d pretty much known every move that kid made, every snack he ate, every milestone he met and every tantrum he threw his entire life. Now there was going to be this two-and-a-half-hour black hole of “I DON’T FREAKIN’ KNOW WHAT HE’S UP TO” four days a week. And yet for some reason, eh, no big deal in my mind. The only way I could justify my lack of overwhelming emotion was to surmise that perhaps in each family there’s one parent who gets back in the car and sobs after dropping off Junior at preschool for the first time, and there’s one parent who simply smiles, pausing to reflect for a moment on the milestone, and then continues with the rest of the day. And I’m the second one.
The thing I quickly realized that First Day was how much I’d carefully prepared Kostyn for what was happening but neglected to really prepare Evan. I’d talked about it a little bit, how Mommy and Evan would drop off Kostyn and go home together. But when you’re 2, your attention span is about as good as your memory. So when Kostyn hugged us and smiled at his teacher and walked proudly through the doorway to his classroom, Evan followed. Or tried to anyway, but was blocked by the teacher, whose efficient moves made it apparent she’d dealt with more than one younger sibling or parent hanger-on that day.
Evan looked back at me, stunned. Just the day before he and Kostyn had happily played with many of the toys inside that colorful room, and now for some inexplicable reason his big brother was being allowed back in but he was getting carded at the door.
“But I want to play with Tostyn,” he said, his lip quivering. I had barely scooped him up when the sobbing started. He cried all the way home, every once in awhile putting his agony to words.
“But I will miss Tostyn.”
“But I want to be with Tostyn.”
“I wish Tostyn was with Evan.”
It was heartbreaking, people. I can’t believe on the first day of preschool it’s my younger son who’s going to make me cry, I thought. I managed to hold it together, but he sure didn’t. He cried while I tried to read him a book, he cried when I put him down for a nap, he cried as I lay there with him and assured him that as soon as he woke up it would be time to pick up Kostyn.
That first day, and every day since, I have had to wake up Evan from his nap in order to get us to the school in time for pickup. And every day I watch his face as it scrunches up in disapproval at having been woken up, but then blinks alert when the fuzziness subsides and his brain registers what’s about to happen. Hair damp and matted to his head, one side of his face red from sleeping so hard on the pillow, he’s barely conscious but scrambles into a sitting position. “We have to go get Tostyn!”
And every day when the teacher says “Kostyn, your mom is here” and we stand in the doorway and watch him gather his bag and head toward us, there is pride on his face and relief on his little brother’s.
“Did you have a good time at peeschool, Tostyn?” Evan asks as we walk down the hallway.
“Yes, I did!”
“And were you a good listener?” Evan asks.
“I surely was, Evan.”
“I missed you, Tostyn.”
“Awww, that’s OK Evan. I missed you too.”
Evan doesn’t cry anymore when we drop off Kostyn, but every single day during the ride home he tells me how it feels to have his other half somewhere else. “I’m going to miss Tostyn.”
“Me too,” I tell him, glancing in my rearview mirror. And I surely mean it.