It’s the last wave and smile.
It’s the oversized backpack filled with snow pants.
I drove to work crying today, again.
It’s not a daily occurrence. It’s something that happens on certain days.
You see, due to a parental scheduling error, my son has been without before school care at his elementary school since the New Year.
As with most things in life, there are benefits and drawbacks to this situation.
Good: Kids get to sleep in a little. They choose not to of course, but they have the option.
Bad: Mom and Dad get to work later than they’d like.
Good: More time with the kids at home. They have breakfast, watch shows, and getting out the door is a little less hectic.
Very Bad: Dad has to drop off with other parents for kindergarten.
Dropping the kids off is typically Mom’s job, mostly due to work schedule and location.
If you’re a parent, you are most likely thinking, oh it’s a nightmare waiting in line every day to drop off your child for school.
I am not here to tell you that you’re wrong, but it’s not what makes it bad for this Dad.
I’ve come to realize through almost six years of being a parent that your children are like kites.
Yes, kites, stick with me on this one.
In the beginning, you work to get your kite airborne. Pushing for milestones. Taking ultimate pride in the milestones they hit early. Rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, talking, potty training, these are things that mean the wind is picking up and your kite is going to fly.
The first day we dropped my oldest off at daycare he was three months old. I wore sunglasses the entire time, hoping that they would hide the uncertainty, sadness, and tears on my face.
In reality, it made me look like a douchebag. More accurately, a sad douchebag.
That was the day that it struck me. The end of the line that holds my kite, is not attached to the spool in my hand. The line is roughly 18 years long.
The day will come when the last bit of line detaches and I’ll be left with an empty spool with nothing to do but watch the kite fly on its own.
This has created a severe cognitive dissonance for me.
There are things we do as parents that feel taxing at that moment.
Pushing them on the swing, for example. When you are doing it for the thousandth time, it becomes so monotonous. So, you start educating them on how to swing by themselves. Thinking, if I let out a little more line off the spool, I won’t have to stand here and push them anymore.
You tell them how to move their legs. They do it wrong. You try to correct. They do it wrong and get frustrated. Then you get frustrated that they won’t try. You say, “if you’re not going to have fun at the park then I guess we’ll just go home.” They cry, so you tell them they can play for 5 more minutes, convinced you’ll have the only child that never learned how to use a swing.
Then one day, out of nowhere, they can swing on their own. That section of line that you so desperately wanted off the spool is off. There is no getting it back. The pang hits you in the sternum when you realize, you never have to push them on the swing again.
The problem is, the word “have” changed to get.
You’re not sure how it happened but it is there as clear as day.
You never get to push them on the swing again.
All you want is to pull the line back in just a little. Just for a minute. Just one more time.
The spool doesn’t work like that on these kites.
This is why this morning… and yesterday morning… and a few more over the past week and a half, I drove out of the parking lot with tears rolling down my cheeks. I look at other parents driving out of the parking lot muttering “what the fuck is wrong with you people?” as I notice no one else is crying.
They are moving on with their day and not having an existential crisis.
After he stops, smiles, and waves to me (ugh, the wave is a punch to the gut), he runs to catch up with friends with his backpack bouncing back and forth on his shoulders. I remind myself that this is a good thing. It’s good that he doesn’t need me to walk him in, find his locker, put his backpack away, and go to class. I am doing a pretty good job at flying my kite.
It helps a little. Eventually, the book that I am listening to in the car distracts me and the sadness fades.
What’s more, I have two kites, which allows me to recognize these important spots in my daughter’s line and cherish them.
However, too soon, she’ll be the one smiling and waving as she walks into kindergarten.
All I can do is continue to fly my kites. Keep them away from trees, houses, and powerlines so when the day comes, they’re able to soar.
Until that day, should you need me, I’ll be the idiot crying while flying kites.