Two days ago, my baby started first grade. FIRST GRADE. How the hell did this happen? I remember first grade. I remember it all too well. Eating liverwurst sandwiches in the cafeteria and wondering why my friends moved their seats as soon as I opened my lunch box. Trying to teach the other kids to read, as they ran from my clutches. Wetting my pants with alarming regularity.
I was a weird kid. Are you surprised?
Henry declared before school began that he hated school. He was not even a little excited to go, he claimed. Nor was he nervous. He just wasn’t into it. Couldn't care less. There was a lot of shrugging and eye-rolling. On the walk to his first day, he asked how long college was, and when we told him it was four years, he balked. "No way am I doing that," he said.
"If you want to be an astronaut," Scott pointed out, "you might want to reconsider that."
"I’m not going to work," Henry said. "I'm just going to live with you."
Oh, kids. Kids who think they're going to want to live with their parents once they're grown up. Adorable! Actually I never felt that way. But clearly my son is nothing like me. For one, he has excellent bladder control. And he doesn't know what liverwurst even is. Which is probably for the best.
So we brought him to school with little protest—he wasn't scared or whatever, you'll recall, just so not into it—and when he got to his classroom he saw his friends and his teacher was all smiley and beautiful and full of bubbling positivity and I could see Henry thinking, "Don't act excited. Stay cool, man. STAY COOL." He shook our hands, then saw that his friend Nicky was kissing his parents goodbye so he figured that was okay. No hugs, though, MOM.
We high-tailed it out of there and Scott and I went for a celebratory, our-kid's-in-school-finally breakfast, but as soon as we sat down I abruptly morphed into The Angriest Person in the World. There were these kids (who I guess are in private school, which maybe hasn't yet begun? or they were truants and I should have called the goddamn authorities) who kept running in and out of the café, in and out, in and out, giggling loudly because apparently there was something hilarious and exciting about this journey, and they were wearing flip-flops so their feet were making these slappity slappity noises as they thwapped in and out, back and forth, and their mothers seemed just as delighted by their behavior as they were, for some reason, and I was like, Scott? Is it just me, or should these girls be killed immediately? And then I saw that Scott was on his iPhone posting to Twitter so I muttered angrily at my muffin for a while, which by the way was sub-par. He kept on Twittering, oblivious to my loud and insistent glaring.
Finally I said, "I wish I had that crazy vampire strength they have on True Blood where I could just reach over and crush your phone into bits."
That got him to look up. "What? Why do you want to crush my phone?"
"Don't Twitter when we're having quality time together as a loving couple," I hissed, and he actually said, "I can't imagine why I'd want to be on Twitter when you're such delightful company." Can you believe he said that, Internet? CAN YOU?
Okay, fine, be on his side. Whatever.
After we finished our breakfast—him all irritatingly good-natured, me filled with bile and rancor—Scott headed off to work. I had the whole day to myself! For once! With all this work to do, and stuff, so it was about time. And I got home, and tried to work but there was this pain in my midsection. I couldn't quite figure out where it was. It floated about. Was it my heart? Was I dying? Or was it the muffin? Unclear. The only thing to do was curl up on the couch for an hour or three and think about how much everything was terrible and awful.
That's when it occurred to me, in the fetal position on my couch, feeling the furrows between my eyes deepening as I scowled harder and harder, that I was sad. Because my baby was growing up. Goddamn it all to hell.
I swear I'm usually not this clueless about the workings of my psyche. Usually I am on board with crying right away and getting it all the hell out. It's all right to cry. As we know. Take it, Rosey Grier!
For whatever reason I couldn't get past the discomfort and horror of time passing and just let it all out so I laid there curled up, whimpering and mewling, and I actually tried to squeeze out some tears but could not. So unsatisfying.
Henry's having a great time in school, by the way. It's only been two days and he's already announced that he loves school and can't wait for homework. Today was the first day they all got to walk into the school without their parents. He was so excited to find his classroom all by himself. I tried to catch his eye as he followed his friends into the school, but he didn't look back.