Last night, I propped my head up on Luca’s pillow and told him, “You know. It’s ok to be scared about the first day of school. The trick is what to do with those scared feelings. Face your fears or let them own you. That’s the big choice.”
Luca replied, “Thanks dad. I do feel a little nervous.”
I said, “I was talking about me.”
I took the morning off to walk with Elijah and Luca to school and I chose my biggest sunglasses to protect myself from having other people watch me weep.
Luca was starting kindergarten and I was sick over it. Why in the hell does time have to keep moving forward? Can’t I just keep him in teddy bear PJs, surrounded by stuffed animals forever? It would be a little strange in his 30’s, but I’m ok with it if he is.
I planted myself in the dining room and fought off wave after wave of panic and melancholy as Luca cheerfully ate his Cheerios. He seemed genuinely excited for school and chatted about the merits of sack lunches over the dreaded hot lunch “Bosco Stick.” Elijah adopted the slouching disposition of the third grader who had seen it all. Neither of them seemed to share my intense Kafka moment.
After a flurry of new gym shoes and water bottles, we walked to school with Callie, Lydie, Chris, Lexa and an ever-growing parade of PTA members. I was the only dad moaning to himself, “I feel like this is the Bataan Death March of our childhoods.”
We dumped Eli off at the pile of third graders and took Luca around the corner to the kindergarten area. He was all smiles and glad-handing with the other kids. Hey! It’s Finn! How ya doin’ Jasper! I felt like maybe everything was going to be ok. The bell rang and the kids walked single file to the door.
Then Luca lost it. Every terrible, anxious, nervous strand of DNA he had the bad fortune of inheriting from me lit up within him like a firecracker.
He clutched Diana and wept. Diana told him she couldn’t go into the school with him and he’d have to be brave. He managed to make it into the doorway and then came running back to her arms. Two, three more times.
The gym teacher took pity on us and promised Luca she would help him get to class. He looked back at us with an expression that not only destroyed me, but wiped my existence from the face of the planet.
Diana and I walked home, holding each other up like natural disaster victims. I felt like someone should throw an Army blanket over us.
I got in my car and vowed to buy Luca something gigantic on my way home. Also to look into home schooling immediately. Even if it meant joining a creepy religion. I think I could pull off one of those beards without the mustache.