One day, last week, R and I arrived at school drop-off early. Twenty-five minutes early. This never happens. Never. We were the first ones waiting in the school parking lot due to the freezing temperatures. I had decided to drive him that day, instead of making the typical walk from our home, around the town reservoir, past the dogs playing in the snow, and into the school door marked number two. I’m the mom who thinks it’s okay to walk to school in just about any kind of weather, but on that day, as the air exiting my mouth turned instantly to ice, and as my toes, in my insulated boots, protested the nearing zero temperatures, I knew a drive was the safest bet.
At his school, kindergarteners can be escorted up to the door of their classrooms by parents, grandparents, and babysitters. Most do this for the first few weeks; only a few still make the walk to the classroom now that we’ve past the holiday break. R is ready to do the morning routine by himself, but he prefers I bring him all the way to the classroom, telling me that when he is in first-grade I won’t have to walk him so far. To get ready for that inevitably, we’ve started working on saying good-bye at his locker.
Since we were so early, we sat in the non-idling, rapidly cooling car, and talked.
We told each other jokes.
“Ah, Mommy, don’t you cry!”
Giggles filled the car.
R next began an unsuccessful campaign for different snack choices in his lunch, lobbying for something other than fruits and vegetables. We debated granola bar flavors. He asked me questions about Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. He listened to my answers and asked more questions.
As the temperature in the car dipped lower and lower, I offered to bring R inside to the cafeteria where he could wait with the other children for the bell, signaling the start of the school day. He declined. He wanted to stay with me. He didn’t need to say that twice.
He also threw a curve ball at me.
“Mama, when can I get a tablet?”
I was surprised. We don’t use the word “tablet” in our house; he must have learned it at school. And, a tablet? He’s only 6!
“Why do you want a tablet?” I asked.
He couldn’t answer this one. Instead, he talked about his friend who had an iPad Mini, and who “played games when he wasn’t supposed to.” He looked at me with wide eyes, aware he had told me something his friend might not have wanted a parent to know.
I smiled at his full disclosure, and was pleased that he has not yet learned to deliver half-truths. He’s still in the tell-everything stage. I was—I am—grateful for that.
“You know what?” I answered. “We have one iPad for our family, and that’s enough for all of us to share. You don’t need your own tablet.”
He nodded, and I filed away that this was likely only the first time I would be asked this question. Soon, it was time to go into school. We adjusted our hats, grabbed his backpack, and held hands as we walked through the parking lot and into the building.
That day, a good-bye at the locker wouldn’t do; I walked him all the way to the door of his classroom, gave him a hug, and waved good-bye.
“Mama!” he called, running out of the room. “Huggie!” His arms encircled me, squeezing tightly.
I think we’re going to be getting to school early again very soon.