He came into our bed at 6:30 this morning to begin our daily snuggle routine. I took a deep breath and hit him with contrived enthusiasm: "Max! Do you remember what today is?"
Pause. Thinking. Sigh. "What." he said, with no inflection....indicating that he probably knew exACTly what today was.
"It's your first day of preschool!"
He burst into tears.
I snuggled him tighter. "Oh, buddy," I began...and then I launched into the same monologue that parents are having countless times over, all across the country, at this time of year. It'll be fun....you can do this...everyone's nervous on the first day....blah, blah, blah. Nothing calmed his sad, sad, crying, though, so I changed the subject: "Want to watch Octonauts?" We made it through the first part of the morning more or less ignoring the subject of school but, watching the clock tick closer to Go Time, I knew it had to be addressed.
"Max, remember when we went to your Open House and we played on your awesome playground? Well, it's too bad you don't like playing on playgrounds."
"Yes, I do!" [tiny, hiding grin]
"And remember when you were building that really cool castle with those big dominoes? Oh, nevermind. That was so Boring."
"No it wasn't!" [grin beginning to spread]
"Oh, and those ponies that you were playing with were so boring, too. I hope you don't play with those ponies at ALL today."
"No they weren't! It was fun!"
"Preschool is so boring though."
"No, it's not!" [full-on, huge smile, hands clasped beneath his chin] "Preschool is FUN!" [hands outstretched over his head!]
Of course, Big Bro had to get in on the photo shoot.
I left Evan and Molly home with Sam so I could focus on Just Max during this first-ever drop-off. (It's a perk of Sam working remotely, a five-minute bike ride from home.) As we entered the lobby, one of his teachers met us, "Everyone's out on the playground with Ms. E," she said ("Playground?! Brilliant!" I thought). "Stay as long as you need to." Max hung his tote bag on his hook in the room and grabbed my hand. We headed out the playground door and his grip tightened. I squeezed back.
His shoulders slumped and his bottom lip jutted out as we reached Ms. E. "Max!" she greeted. He started to melt. I knelt down low and gave him a quick hug. "Are you going to go drive that truck?" I asked him, referring to his favorite part of playing on the playground during the Open House. "I love you," I said, "I'll see you soon!" Ms. E was ready to take it from there. And she did....and he let her. He hesitated...he looked back after me...but there were no tears.
Back in the room, I lingered, watching him through a gap in the curtains. Ms. E was walking around the playground with him, trying to find the truck he was looking for. I saw him shake his head, "no," but he followed along behind her. Finally, he stretched his hands apart wide in the universal sign for "big." But then, he stopped, and just stood, watching the rest of the children. He stood right next to Mrs. E's leg and I saw a glimmer of his big brother in him...the quiet watcher...
But he was okay. So I could go home.
It was a good day at home with my Big Boy and Baby Girl.
While Molly slept, Evan and I made Monster Truck obstacle courses....
...and, of course, we baked a cake. Pink, with Lavender sprinkles, because Evan knows that those are Max's two favorite colors.
We arrived at the school a few minutes early (naturally). We were just in time to see Max's class line up on the playground and head back inside. "Oh, look!" I said to Evan as I spotted Max, "There he is!"
"Oh!" said that sweet big brother, "He is so cute!"
Max was on the carpet, picking books out of a book bin when we walked in the room. He looked up but didn't move right away. "Max!" called Evan, "We're here!" So Max came running with hugs and kisses for everyone. Ms. A came over and said, "Max had such a great day today!" And my heart heaved with relief. "He had a few sad times early in the morning, " she continued, "but there were no tears. Whenever he felt sad or lonely, he just went over to his bag and took out the family picture you sent in. After a minute or two, he would put it away and rejoin the group."
And I looked down at my brave, big, boy and saw the look of pride on his face. "You did it!" I gushed. And he just smiled, and squeezed my leg.
Back at home, I didn't get much out of him....except for:
"You know the silly thing they do at preschool?"
"They paint on paper towels!"
"You painted on paper towels? That's so cool!"
"No, I didn't. I said THEY did."
"Remember Olivia from the playground? She steered the truck with me. But we didn't play together. And then she sat in the third sandbox with me. But we didn't play together then, either."
"I ate snack at the table. I got it out of my bag and I just found my seat. I just found it. I think it was next to a boy. What's his name? Maybe his name is Chase."
Then, we ate cake for lunch (don't judge) and Max slept off his busy day for the next three hours.
This evening, the boys reconnected while watching a show before dinner. They had the whole couch to themselves....
...but sat, literally, touching each other. They missed each other.
He did it.
And now, regroup, gear up for our next big day on Friday...