I was not the mom sobbing into my latte. Nor was I the mom skipping and cheering down the hall because it was my first moment of freedom in 5 years. I WAS, however, the mom frantically stashing school supplies into the cubby because I did not know to bring them on meet-the-teacher night. So I was also the mom noticing that I was suddenly the last parent in the room, as the teacher started her welcome routine. And mostly, I was the mom proud to know that I could leave my kid with strangers for a few hours, and trust that she would be kind, and curious, and ready for whatever.
While I had no reservations about dropping her off today, I am dealing with my own anxieties. Even though we moved to town almost a year ago, we are still in a rental house, and will probably move again. Maybe soon. Not only is the market pretty buyer-unfriendly right now, we live in a town that has a school in nearly every neighborhood. A move within a mile of our house could still put us in a different elementary zone. It’s dizzying to think of all the school preparations and excitement we just went through, and all the work teachers do to make kids feel at home and settled…just to uproot again.
On my first day of school, I met a kid named Jason. Actually, it was probably the second day… because my mom drove me the first day, and Jason and I met on the bus. Just like Forrest and Jenny. Anyway, sometime in the early moments of Kindergarten, J was my first friend. We were neighbors, as it turned out. We were in the same class every year until 6th grade. I took him his homework when he was sick, and he came (under duress) to my dance recitals. We often carpooled to high school, and sat a few seats apart in choir. We pre-screened each other’s love interests. And while we didn’t always heed each other’s advice, believe me, we always later wished we had. We went to colleges 15 minutes apart. We spent more time together in some years, less in others; but he was with me every moment of a very difficult summer, and we wound up living in the same apartment complex—completely by chance—in our 20’s.
Which is to say, I walked away from my daughter hoping that she would meet her Forrest or Jenny today. But also, kind of hoping that she wouldn’t. I don’t know if my heart could take her coming home with stories of new best friends and favorite teachers, knowing that we might only be at this school for a little while. I was hoping to guard her from attachment; from connections too meaningful or a place that felt too right.
And then I realized that I was really hoping for her not to love too much.
Of all the moms I am—and believe me, I do not always like the mom that I am–I never want to be the mom who tells my kids not to love too much.
And the thing is, we don’t get to know, when we meet someone, what our long-term relationship will amount to. We can’t anticipate how much we can trust or be real or allow our hearts to be broken. If we could know, then love would be easy and safe. And I guess if love were easy and safe, it would not bear nearly the transformative potential that it does.
I didn’t KNOW that my first friend in Kindergarten was going to be such a big part of my life for so long. I didn’t know, when I first met the girl three dorm rooms down from me, that I would be adopted into her family; that we would travel together and be in each other’s weddings. When my brother was an annoying 8 year old, wanting to hang out with me and my cool friends (LoL), I would never have imagined that there would come a day when I would call him to talk. Like, on purpose.
I didn’t know on my first date with my husband that we would travel the world, move across the country a few times, and have two kids (and a dog) together somewhere along the way. And when we first bring children into the world, we can’t know who they’re going to be. We can’t know how they will dazzle or disappoint us; what struggles they will face, what brand of extraordinary they will be, or how their hearts will break… But my, how we love them anyway. Isn’t that the point?
Loving anyway opens the door for those miraculous lifelong connections… Or even the ones that might be for a particular season, but still shape us in some significant way. How would we ever find our people if we did not—for at least a few critical moments in life—love with the abandon of a child?
Every day we send our kids out into the world, knowing that the reckless way they love makes them vulnerable to heartbreak. We can teach them to fear that– to live and love with caution and only ever make shallow connections to the world around them– or we can send them out believing that 10 minutes on the bus can change your life. And maybe the world.
(Ok, NOW I’m crying into my latte.)