The heartbreak of a growing boy

Add it to the list of unexpected parent things.

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This little guy is going on two months in Kindergarten and it’s mostly going well. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t like to reveal much about his days. The surprising part is I’m more sad about all the things that are going well.

I’m proud of Nashi every morning at drop off as he marches along through the big school doors with his disproportionately large backpack full of the lunch and snacks I pack for him. At the same time, I long for the days where I walk (often carry) him into his preschool and help him set up his stuff and go through the goodbye ritual of a snuggle and his empowered pushing of me out the door.

I know he loves having friendships with the neighborhood kids, yet I ache as I watch him play with the older kid and enthusiastically emulate all the big kid things. He joined in as the boy proclaimed “no girls allowed!” at his other friend who he’s known his whole life. As a man with a 37 year old brain, it’s probably unrealistic to expect Nashi’s impulse to actually be stepping in and defending her with a “hey we don’t exclude friends in this house, especially based on gender” like a hero. He’s eager to fit in and copy everything the bigger kid says and does.

I enjoy listening to the songs he sings that come from school, the names of friends I don’t know in the rare stories he tells about his day, and the random sayings he’s obviously picking up from people who are not his parents. Still, I guess I wasn’t quite ready for the world where he’s his own person, wandering out there absorbing, processing, and experimenting all on his own. Yes he asks me to carry him to the breakfast table because the floor is cold and for some reason still wants me to wipe his ass after a shit, but he’s not a preschooler anymore. I’m glad he’s progressing and I’m a proud papa, but it turns out this is not just a transition for the child.

We used to be the center of his world, and was a part of (if not directly created) all his references – the jokes, the games, the stories, and the characters. Entering kindergarten is clearly a big early shift in losing some of that, with more to come from this point on. Even worse, we used to have an almost complete handle on all his struggles and challenges. The social challenges specifically will be mostly occurring away from us now, and although a requisite part of growing up, it doesn’t feel great to be forced to let go a little bit.

At least I still have the girl. Except, she’s actually demanding mama all the time these days and recently repeated “GO AWAY!” at me for about fifteen minutes when I tried to put her down at night. So I have that going for me.

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