“The weekend is only two days?!” J asked during his second week of kindergarten. Yes, he was slowly but surely entering into the realities of our world. This made my heart hurt and so I said, “Yes, it’s two full days,” as if to convince him, and myself, that it all really wasn’t so bad. “Humph,” he said, angrily. “Then when I grow up, I’m going to be a T-Rex!”
I thought about this later—about what growing up to be this particular extinct dinosaur might mean for him—and I thought, maybe, if you were a T-Rex, you were so powerful you didn’t have to abide by any adult rules, including the calendar, and that perhaps he was holding onto this so he did not quite have to swallow the realities, all at once, of existing in the adult world as it is and having no control over so many things.
On J’s first morning of kindergarten, he cried and held onto my leg and would not let me go. His little eyes scanned the unfamiliar room, and he said “Don’t leave me here, I hate this place!” I felt a sensation of being crushed, his sadness like a boulder on my back, pinning me to the ground. I tried to reassure him with hugs and kisses but began to feel panic growing inside as other parents eventually all left the room and my child still would not let me go. In that moment, I felt so all alone, like I had missed something—some sort of critical information on how to do this, because clearly, J was not sitting nicely in his chair, ready to begin like almost everybody else, and so, in my panicked mind, a little voice (that I am not proud of) squeaked, what was wrong with us? Thankfully, J’s teacher knew what to do, and so the second the little guy allowed a tiny sliver of space between our two bodies, she snuck in and gently turned his shoulders to his seat and he resigned and I left. When I got back to my car, I finally let my own tears out, even though I knew he would be okay. It was just hard sometimes—experiencing his sadness and fear, and on top of that, feeling different. I knew this was an unreasonable thought, even as I was thinking it, because, of course, everyone is different—at some time, in some way—and that certainly wasn’t wrong, and for God’s sake, I knew it was okay to cry on the first day of kindergarten. And yet…my heart still did what it does, and that is—it feels what it feels, sometimes despite some very good logic.
When I picked up J from school, I waited with the other parents as his class appeared, following the teacher in a neat little row like a trail of ducklings, all in matching hats they had made to celebrate the big first day. J happened to be walking at the front of the line, a serious look on his face. When he saw me, he ran over for a hug and then, very carefully, he opened up his little hand to show me that inside he held, so lovingly, a tiny, green clover. “There are so many clovers here!” He said, and his face lit up with so much joy that the earth wobbled a little bit for me suddenly.
And so, looking back on that day I thought about time spent surviving, working, doing chores, being away from loved ones, the world’s realities of pain and injustice and sorrow and fear that can feel paralyzing to me at times, silencing. And yet, somehow, these little clovers did appear. Which reminded me of the other evening…we were snuggling goodnight and J said excitedly, “Did you know the sky is blue ghost?” he smiled and explained to me that was why we could not touch it and neither could skyscrapers. And I thought, how beautiful. And I felt, there was, somehow, joy in that, in the strangeness of it all—imagining the sky as this blue ghost all around us, and popping up at our feet these unexpected clovers.