I have always found solace in patterns and shapes.
One of my most distinct memories of Kindergarten involved playing with a set of wooden tiles. They were painted in bright primary and secondary colors. The tiles were sized so that I could combine shapes to make larger shapes and pictures. I would lay two triangles together to become a diamond, then connect diamonds to create a large sunburst. The repetition of placing the tiles and forming the pattern was comforting to me. I guess I liked order.
This week, both of my sons started school. Liam is in Kindergarten, and Kellen has started preschool. For the first time in five years, I have the mornings to myself.
Letting go has been hard for all of us. I sometimes watch movies and television, even listen to conversations, and think about how we seem to have this need to summarize emotions in digestible statements. “I have mixed emotions about the boys going to school. I know it is good for all of us, but I miss them.” It doesn’t quite capture the complexity of what it means to be a mother and away from your kids. What it is to spend the day away from your mom.
Every morning, I drop Liam off at the curb of his school. This is the procedure parents are supposed to follow. I watch him walk away into a crowd of strangers, and am flabbergasted at how brave he is.
I went to a tiny school- probably less then 300 students from Kindergarten through twelfth grade. Liam’s school is more than five hundred, K-5. I had the benefit of older siblings to show me what to do. I was cradled in a community of people who knew me and were acquainted with my family. If I had trouble, an adult would call me by name and assist me. Does that happen to Liam? Does he have people he can trust?
I look at his back as he walks away, his steps slow and cautious. I know he will make friends, but right now he has no one that runs up to greet him. No friends to walk with him on the sidewalk. Just a small boy with a large backpack following the crowd to the playground because he thinks that’s where he should go.
Kellen is more vocal. As I let go of his hand each morning so his teacher can take it and walk him in, he starts crying. He tells me “I just want to stay with you.” He doesn’t HAVE to go to preschool. He COULD stay with me. Am I doing the right thing sending him? Will attending class without me help him to gather confidence? Or am I simply putting him through a challenge he does not have to face- not yet anyway.
I find myself seeking order. I’ve sorted all the closets, and drawers, gathering piles for trash and donation. I cried a little as I happened upon mittens they wore as newborns to keep themselves from scratching their faces. I even got misty as I threw out diaper rash ointment and teething gel.
In the afternoons, I play with my boys, relishing the time together. Even then, I gravitate to patterns- building Magna Tile castles, punching Lite Brite pegs through paper, and of course, Liam’s favorite, playing with Legos.
At a party in my twenties, a friend who was an artist, grabbed a sharpie and a paper and began drawing. He liked the exercise of using the pen because he had to make each line work- no mistakes. He had to ensure every line fit.
I have never been great at drawing, but I took up the practice. At the time, I was working a night shift job at a semiconductor factory. The only things we were allowed to take in the fab with us were sharpies and paper. It was a good way to pass the time when work was slow.
I hadn’t doodled like that in awhile, but this morning, I picked up a Sharpie. I doodled and doodled until it was out of ink. The drawing is crude. It does not capture the beauty of the concept in my mind. It sounds strange, but when I think about the love I have for my children, I imagine us as sort of gelatinous beings. We move freely and change shape. We produce arms and tentacles to explore the world around us. Sometimes the tentacles find each other and begin to intertwine, pulling us closer together, tethering us into one being.
Right now, we are being pulled in opposite directions. The tethers are stretching, some are breaking. I hope with space to grow, the beings will grow stronger, take up more space. I believe the damaged tentacles will grow back, longer, stronger, reaching further- some even finding their way back to tether but with greater flexibility of movement.
I know. It sounds a bit creepy. I have always been a bit strange, and perhaps too involved when it comes to my kids. I just like them and miss them. Even though independence will prove healthy for all of us, I’m sure, sometimes my heart still hurts.