When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I never really worried about what type of mother I would be. I started working with kids in one form or another from a very early age, so I had plenty of experience with children, from preemies onward. I was calm throughout carrying big C, certain that I knew what I was doing - I had bathed children, bandaged bo-bo's, and changed diapers with the best of them. Becoming an instant parent to a 4-year old upon my marriage gave me even MORE experience, and I went into that delivery room without a shred of worry--knowing I was made for this.
Twenty-two hours after beginning labor, a nurse put big C in my arms, and I stared in wonder at this tiny human being who was MINE now, his eyes still fresh with angel dust. Just minutes earlier, we had been one body, he and I, and now he was his OWN person, already starting out on the journey that would take him to being a man one day. From this moment on, he would be DIFFERENT, from one second to the next - always growing, always changing, and it was up to me as his parent to help guide him onward.
Fast forward 48 exhausting hours, and it is time to leave the skilled nurses and doctors behind, to strap his tiny body into his carseat for the ride home. I remember being seized by panic, thinking "Shouldn't there be a test for this? You're going to just LET ME TAKE HIM HOME?"
Forget the time spent caring for other people's children, forget the four years raising our oldest--not of my body but always my own--forget the things I knew how TO do, all I could think about were the things I was terrified I would NOT be able to do. I held his tiny little self in my arms and felt the weight of all that depended on me pressing down, threatening to overwhelm me.
These days, that feeling has come around again--reminding me once again that no matter how much you ever feel like you have things "figured out," life has a way of proving you a fool, every time.
The next two weeks seem designed to test my strength. In one short span of time, big C is turning 5 and starting kindergarten, K is moving away for a year, and little C will be starting REAL SCHOOL and phasing out therapy all together.
Big C needs school. He NEEDS it. His sharp intelligence is making him impatient with his small world, his little mind desperate for new stimulation, a place that can keep up with him. I know it's what he needs, but my mother's heart remembers gripping the dashboard on that eternity of a first car-ride home, and I think again, "What if I can't do this?" I have to put my baby on a BUS, for goodness' sake, and heaven knows how I'm going to do that.
K is spreading his wings, tentatively testing the waters of a life he will one day have to live independently. I remind myself once again that this is a GOOD thing - he is making his own decisions, has a good head on his shoulders, and a strong support system should he decide the waters are not to his liking. But while his wings are itching to spread, I want desperately to grab some scissors and clip them for just a LITTLE WHILE LONGER. Because I know I can't, and because he is braver and more adaptable than his father or I have ever been, we will put him on a plane in two days and spend the next twelve months holding our breath.
And little C? He has traveled a long, long way, my little intrepid warrior. My mental checklist of Skills He Needs To Acquire has grown smaller and smaller as the months have flown by, and I am finding it harder and harder to justify the waiting--for just a little bit longer--to introduce him to the "typical" world he will travel through now. The therapists that have been his guides (sherpas?) tell me that he is ready. That he will be fine. That this is THE IDEAL RESULT of the hard work and countless hours and effort we have all put in.
They are trying to gently nudge us from the nest, but I find myself clawing at twigs and brush and FEATHER, dammit, because I'm not ready. My baby's place to fall has always been soft, the people in charge of guiding him here always smarter than me, but beyond this new checkpoint lies so many unknowns.
It's all US from here on out, and I am once again that frightened new mother, peering through the angel dust at the most precious and fragile thing I have ever been put in charge of. Wondering who made the decision to put ME in charge, and what in the world they were thinking.
For now, I'll hold them tightly when they stay still long enough, snuggle with them when they'll let me, and try to pry my fingers from the dashboard.