His first day of school starts in a few hours. Brandon’s teacher, Mrs. Harrington, should be prepared to be bombarded with questions. My son’s curiosity cannot be sated, his mission in life an interminable quest for new information to fill the sponge inside his 4 year old skull. He’ll want to know all about his new classmates, want to know exactly what’s inside all those cabinets lining the walls, why the toilets in the bathroom are so small, ad infinitum.
The strange thing about all this is that I, his 40 year old father, the guy who usually has all the answers, is spending this night filled with more worry, doubt, and confusion than I’ve experienced since Brandon was taken away by the nurse for his first skull surgery at 9 months old (more on that in a later blog).
Some background –
When Brandon turned one month old, and his mom returned to work, I quit my full-time day job to become, in essence, “Mr. Mom.” On the job training was the order of the day, a new dad learning to change diapers, decipher what each new sound and expression on his face meant, figure out at what age the little guy was ready to try new foods and which ones he could handle, not to mention lots of laundry and chores around the house (I don’t claim to have been much good at the chores part, but in my defense I was also working a part-time job five nights a week). I earned the equivalent of at least an associate’s degree in medicine, spending time with Brandon at most of the pediatric “-ologists” in town (for those keeping score at home: nephrologist, cardiologist, urologist, dermatologist, neurologist, and more), as well as countless visits to the pediatrician and several emergency room visits.
Now, however, all of that has come to an abrupt end. Brandon will be in school from 8:00AM – 3:00PM, M-F. Those hours and days that I spent teaching and learning are over. He won’t be around to ask me any questions, and he likewise won’t be around to answer mine.
“What do you want to to do today?” Once we were both fully awake, too many mornings before 6:00 AM, that’s what I asked him, and his answers never failed to lead us on an adventure. Whether it was digging up long-lost army men in the dirt behind our house, searching every tree trunk on our street for cicada shells, spending more hours on a bike than I had since before I got my driver’s license, exploring every park and museum in Clark County, going to a zoo I’d never once visited in my first 15 years living in Las Vegas, swimming in every public pool we could find, or scrambling up, over, and around rocks in some nearly inaccessible part of the desert, we did it. Together.
And not just the exciting stuff, everything mundane was also done as a duo. Grocery shopping, church, banking, visits to the dentist (his and mine), meeting visiting friends for lunch, always the two of us.
Which is not to say I’ve raised him “my byself” (that’s Brandonese, for the uninitiated). Alison, my sweet girlfriend, has played a HUGE role in the past year and a half, all four of his grandparents have been amazing, and his mom has always been there. But Mondays through Fridays, during the day, Brandon has been under my nearly exclusive providence.
– background over, back to the present
For once in my life, I think I can match my son question for question.
Now that Brandon’s days will be spent in school, with whom do I ride bikes? Who’s going to find every last beetle, spider, and pillbug in and around the house? If I’m willing to pay the $7, can I still go to BounceU sans child and play/wrestle/slide/jump with all the kids there? Can I safely traverse the aisles at the grocery store without a navigator perched at the end of my cart?
I certainly have enough around here to keep me busy. The garage is 12 years overdue for a cleaning. My office would inspire terror in all but the most stalwart professional organizer. I’ve been juggling ideas for several books. Eventually, a day job that makes sense will come along. All too soon it will sadly feel like the norm to spend days without him. Pages in the book of life can be recalled, fondly or otherwise, they can be ripped from their binding, they can be laminated and kept safe forevermore, but they must, inevitably, be turned.
To the graduates of the class of 2010, both of Dad University and Toddler College, congratulations.
Enjoy it, but not too long. Grad school is calling…..