break the seal

The first day I dropped Chicken off at school, I said good-bye so quickly and perfunctorily that neither one of us had time to experience the separation.

It was snack time. I gave him his baggies of cheddar bunnies and orange slices. I got him his Nemo cup and made sure there was water in it. I knelt down next to him and said, "Okay, Chicken. I'm going to go now, and you're going to stay here with your teachers. You're going to play here, and then you're going to go outside to play, and then I'll be back after lunch, okay?" Chicken, not for a second wavering in his focus on the cheese crackers, said, "yeah." I kissed him, said, "I love you baby. I'll see you later." I stood up and left.

Down the hall, down the stairs, and out the front door, I was simply relieved that I'd done it, quick and painless like a good execution, and that he'd been fine with it. And that, my friends, is how we do that.

Today was day two.

I brought Chicken into his classroom and the teachers rounded the kids up for circle time. They sang hello to each child by name, and then they decided to sing a couple more songs. "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," went off without a hitch. Chicken actually twinkled his hands and smiled at his teacher. Dude, my kid is so awesome. Psht, the first school experience is easy, you guys. I don't know what the big deal is.

And then... they lowered the boom.

"How about for our last song, we sing 'you are my sunshine?'" said Teacher Ellen.


I could feel my throat closing up and my chin tucking in before we even started singing.

You are my sunshine,
my only sunshine.

I got through, "you are my," before it became abundantly clear that there was no fucking way I was getting through this song without needing a box of Kleenex and a shot of Jack. My only hope was to stop singing immediately, mouth the words, and go to a happy place. Like Nordstrom. Or Starbucks. Anywhere hollow, happy, and outside my too-full heart.

You make me happy
when skies are gray.

The problem was, my happy place is any place where my Chicken is happy. And I was already there, absolutely drowning in that beautiful little monster of mine, remembering the way he puts his small, cool hands on my cheeks, holding my face like it's a baby bird. Remembering how he looks right into my eyes and says, very softly, with a smile, "gotchu."

I swallowed and took a few deep breaths, but I could tell that my mouth was twisting and my eyes filling. Every word of this sweet, simple, fucking bastard song was like another layer of warmth, another hug from a beloved friend saying, "it's okay to cry, honey. Let go."

Seriously, Teacher Ellen? Not cool. I've got a rep to maintain. I am not the mother who weeps at drop off. I am not.

You'll never know, dear,
how much I love you.

I glanced around the room. Why wasn't anyone else crying? ARE YOU ALL ROBOTS? HAVE YOU NO SOULS?

The song is saying that your sweet child will never know how much you love him - how can you sing that lyric, or mouth it through trembling cry-lips in my case, and not be absolutely overwhelmed with love to the point that tears involuntarily leak from your eyes in the same way they do if you get smacked in the face with a sand-crusted volleyball?

I think I pulled it off okay. I didn't shed any tears. I swallowed them and they dropped thickly down my throat, resisting like an unchewed hunk of apple. I said the same cheerful, brief good-bye. I left. I drove home. Dry eyes. Stopped for a coffee. Chatted with Buster. Did some laundry. I was good.

Then I listened to this:

Aaaaand then I listened to this:

Followed by this:

And then I watched an episode of this:

Dude... I've cried about fourteen times today. It's 3:41 pm.

I'm not sad.

I'm not worried. I know he's not scared. I know he will wonder where I've gone the first few days. I know he will trust that I'm coming back for him.

I don't know what I feel.

It really is like I just got hit in the face with a sand-crusted volleyball.

I feel so happy that my Chicken is going to a lovely school, with shining-faced teachers who always talk to him from their knees, on his level, with a loving hand on his back.

I feel happy for myself, that I get to be away from him for a little while - what's that expression? How can I miss you if you won't go away? Yeah, that.

But when I tear up I'm not thinking about how happy I am, for him or for me. I'm thinking about what a wonder he is. I'm thinking, baby I love you. I'm thinking, be my baby. I'm thinking I'll always be there to rock you like the wind and the rain. I'm thinking, my life is beautiful.

Mostly, I just feel swooning, hollering, fall-on-your-knees love for this little tyrant, my cannonball boy who is so ready to go out into the big world that when I said I was leaving all he said was, "yeah."

Good for you, little man. You go rock out.

I'll be the one in the corner drowning in choked-back tears. I'll be the one not fooling anyone.


  1. My kids are going to out-of-home daycare for the first time in September when they turn 2. How did you get Chicken ready for his school experience? Did you talk about it at home? for how long before? Did you visit with him before hand, or just drop him off the first day? Any advice on the transition? Loved your advice about moving to "shiny new treehouse" and was wondering if you did similar prep for school.

    1. I will totally write that post tomorrow!