This is not horrible or horrifying. I'm leaving fear someplace else.
No, that's not entirely true. I'm deeply afraid; my own mortality is at stake. At least, that's how I feel.
My youngest son went to school today.
My eight year-old went to school today as well. We dropped him off at the side of the road and he ran inside; that's how he wanted it. I'm used to him not needing me.
But the little guy is five.
He's not afraid of school. He sole fear is of a flushing toilet, and what awful disaster might occur if that toilet were to overflow. But he's getting over that fear, and he's definitely not afraid of a brand-new classroom.
But I'm afraid. My youngest baby is going to school. He's going to learn things, and be away from me all day. Without those two kids I'm a third of a man. For the past eight years they've been my identity, my distraction from the worry of growing old. The world has passed me by and begun to look at the next generation, as it should. That's how the natural order works. That's why we take care of kids.
But when those kids leave, and blithely wave goodbye with what is only the first and least heart-breaking of farewells that our kids bade us, we can feel that empty place that was once something we thought we didn't mind giving away. What is that? During the toilet-training, the sleepless nights, the cleaning up of puke, I forgot what that was. But I think I remember.
I think it was peace. We gave up peace; lazy, sexy, lazy Saturday mornings; adult time; and instead gave it to our kids. When they go away they take it with them, and it becomes confidence, sunniness, luck, love; all the sacrifices we willingly made becomes that which makes our kids special.
But boy, do we feel it when they go. I stood in that schoolyard and felt like a grieving, half-dead battery. I taught my boys everything but I don't think I can teach them how to deal with something like this: when your most inspired creations don't need you anymore. When you succeed so grandly that your mad scientist's monsters leave to write their own story. And you are left empty.
I'm not afraid for them. Well, I have all the silly fears of all parents: gangs, accidents, stranger abductions. But on the balance, I know I have two stunningly handsome boys for whom the sky holds no limit. They have healthy grandparents who can step in if something terrible happens to us; we are in good financial shape; they're popular; they're healthy.
So why do I feel like we've put everything we hold dear into these two people we invented, and sent them off into the world like two genetic express envelopes without an address? I don't know. I could keep them with me, and never let anything happen to them. But as Dory from Finding Nemo says: You can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.
But not to worry - I'll get over it. He was gone for only and hour this morning, and tomorrow it will be for an hour and a half. Full-time school will start next week, and in the meantime he still wants a song before he goes to bedtime, and he still sleepwalks into our room and demands to be cuddled. He's still a baby.