The alarm came early-- 7:30 a.m. But I was ready for it on this day. Once the school year gets going and I get home from work around midnight, it's a pretty tough wake up call. The kids all got out to the bus stop a little early today, not just because it was the first day of school, but because there were a few first-timers in the neighborhood today. Three little ones were ready to board the bus for the first time and head to kindergarten. My oldest, Leah, is a seasoned vet going into 3rd grade and was promptly at the front of the line. First time kids means first-time parents and lots of video cameras. We snapped some pictures and took some video-- yes, even I couldn't resist. The kids were troopers, genuinely excited about getting on the bus without Mom and Dad, but the life-givers shed a few tears as the bus pulled away. That's where me and my big mouth chimed in. To one misty-eyed parent I called out: "I think I just heard him say, 'M-o-o-o-o-o-m!'" We're friends and I was kidding, but I think I ruined the moment. However, a little later-- as my wife likes to say-- God punished me.
You see, my youngest, A.J. (pictured) also started school today, but she wasn't at the bus stop. She was fast asleep in her bed, because she is going in the afternoon session. She woke up, came downstairs with her hands in the air and a little smile. I asked her what her deal was and she paused before answering in melody, "I start school toda-a-a-a-y." To say she was excited was an understatement. She got her shoes on and her backpack strapped up and paced around the house for two hours asking 'when will it be time for school.' Finally, it was. I loaded her up, grabbed the camera and the tissue for what I thought would be the "Daddy, don't leave me" moment. Of course, I thought my daughter couldn't go into a new classroom with teachers she didn't know and students she hadn't met without her knight in shining armor... me. I was wrong. I let her do the march into the school-- all on video tape-- and into the classroom where I was an after-thought. Backpack in the locker... check. Find nametag... check. Find seat... check. Say goodbye to Daddy... I said, say goodbye to Daddy. Hello????? "Oh, yeah. Bye, Dad." Not only was my baby ready for her next challenge, she didn't need me to hold her hand in any way. That, and not her fears, was what brought the tears to my eyes as I stepped out and made the long walk down the hall.
I think I could've used the last-second glance and smile that the other parents got at the bus stop.