Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Independence, Part 2
Liam on his first day of school, with flowers for his teacher
The mornings go like this: after a nice, longish snuggle in the bed, I creep downstairs with Liam and Fiona and the beginnings of breakfast commence. The kettle boils, the oatmeal pot simmers. I try to find some fruit to put on their plates and fill the glasses with milk. After the telltale creaks on the stairs, Aoife pops her head around the corner and shouts, SURPRISE! I jump, my hand over my heart, Fiona breaks into a cheek-splitting grin, and Liam groans. The same thing happens every day.
We sit down together, sometimes out on the porch and sometimes in the dining room, and we eat together, me and the kids. Greg has been gone for hours by now, having tip-toed downstairs to his timed coffee pot and driven off in the dark to work. We eat our oatmeal and our fruit, and Fiona throws food off her tray and laughs, and the cat rubs against our legs, and the sun rises. When the children are finished they rattle off, in monotone, thankyouforthelovelybreakfastpleasemayIbeexcused and then walk as quickly as they can into the kitchen, bowl and glass in hand, and I hear the dishes clatter onto the counter over the dishwasher, followed by the scuttling of feet and the door opening and closing, and they're off. The sun is high now, and they throw the frisbee, or swing on the swings, or catch insects in the bug box while I scrub out the pot and Fiona eats cheerios off the kitchen floor.
Then, at 7:54, thereabouts, I call to them: time for teeth and shoes. They come in, and each find the requisite equipment (Toms of Maine, strawberry for Aoife, mint for Liam and me) and brush their teeth. Shoes go onto the now dirty feet and we load up into the car.
The car, by the by, is a gold Chrystler Town and Country. Did I just admit that to you? The in-laws passed it down to me, and I've tried my best with it, dousing it with a smattering of liberal bumper stickers ranging from "Strong men don't bully" to "Childhood is a Journey, not a race" and the grand finale, "I make Milk, what's your superpower?". Anyway, the van is ours, which does help with our slew of children plus the extra little girl I babysit for, and we pile in at a few minutes after eight and take off down the backroads.
We pass fields of sweet corn and tomatoes, broccoli, kale and squash. We pass dairy barns, forest, and a reservoir with its ancient dam. We weave along the infamous Mill River and arrive at the place we must go: school, school, school.
My son bounces out of the car, his handmade cloth lunchbag in his hand. He can hardly wait while I unbuckle his sisters and grasp everyone's hand to cross the parking lot, and when we're across he bounds ahead, running through the door and down the stairs. He greets the principal with a hug and dashes across the all-school space and to his room, his little room, his class.
The kids are there, and his lovely teacher is there, and I love them all. I love this school, this special community that we were fortunate enough to luck our son into, and his teacher who remarkably teaches her classroom almost exactly the same way I taught that grade level when I was employed. So I have no complaints, only praise, for the whole school experience.
Except that when I leave, I have to leave Liam there. And I'm sad in the car, with just the girls, as we weave back along the river, past the reservoir, the forest, and the fields. I want my boy with me, but he's so thrilled to be there, learning and changing every day. I could keep him home with me, I could. But with this opportunity there for him, with the wonderful friends and connections he's made, at this point it would be a selfish decision. Liam loves the world, and the world loves Liam. I love Liam, but I'm setting him free (as long as he comes home every day at 3 so I can love him up).