Tuesday, July 31, 2012

To Get Out of the Nest

I turn the calendar to a new set of opportunities, to a new season.  Already, almost a dozen days in August are spoken for, but my eyes skip ahead to the page's center, the fifteenth, where the faded sepia-colored image of the compass in the background forms a cross in the center of a bulls-eye.

Funny how even this pre-printed schedule of days already knew which day would be the target of change.

Mid-morning, my mother calls encouragement across the miles, telling me I was just as excited about my first day of kindergarten.  She knows how hard it is for this mother about to send her young bird out of the nest for the very first time.

Funny how I don't remember the excited part of elementary school.

What I do remember clearly is the fear of not being able to find my bus in that double line of yellow and black.  Mine had the green construction paper bear taped to the glass-paneled door that opened accordion-style.  Then, without warning, the paper wasn't there anymore, and I had to remember the large black number printed on the side; even back then, remembering numbers was difficult.

As an adult, I realize how silly my fear was, especially since I lived literally a mile away from the school.  But every day, it was the same few seconds of panic before I found the right bus.

I make a mental note to repeatedly remind Wyatt that if he misses the bus, it's ok.  Mommy is only seven minutes away.

As the days grow closer, Wyatt has started to vocalize some of his own fears--what if he doesn't know anybody? what if nobody wants to be his friend? what if he can't do the work? what if he gets lost?

I have felt each of these even as an adult and encourage these questions, knowing those that are spoken aloud can be dissolved or at least put into perspective with logical answers before they grow into irrational monsters.

For the past week, he has continued to walk up to me and say, "Sometimes I'm afraid.....but."

Yes.  This is how we grow.

He points proudly to the purple and black tiger-striped bookbag he chose, leaps high in the air at the LSU Tiger patch embroidered on the front pocket.  Firsts are special.

I remember my first book bag, now boxed away in my attic.  Living in a home with little that was store-bought, I was so proud of it--royal blue with red piping, its stiff appliqued apple on the front with the worm, another smaller apple hiding inside with my name, address, and phone number.  Somehow, I never lost it.

Then, there was the shimmery, leaf green pencil with its broad, always-dull point, the scratch-n-sniff stickers for good work, my watercolor painting of the giraffe, and the cardboard TV with its rolled up "slide presentation" on gerbils.

These were the good memories, the ones I have always kept alongside the bad ones, the scary ones, all tucked away together in paper boxes.

He's like me and yet he's not like me.  I try to prepare him for the struggles I faced, prepare him for rejection, for change, for sitting still.  But there's only so much I can tell and show.  In the end, he must go and do in order to learn it for himself.

It's a lot like the baby birds in our front porch flower pot.  The children and I daily checked the nest to see gaping mouths and fledgling wings unfurling until one day, we peeked inside to find emptiness.

While that feathered mother surely taught her children everything she could to make their first foray into the world, ultimately, just like my son, they had to get out of the nest if they ever were going to fly.

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