From the time you were a toddler, you have had a fixation with school.
You were only about a year and a half old when we took our friend, who was blind, to meet her son for his school lunch.
As we walked into the school, you seemed to have a natural sense for where we were going.
You immediately grabbed her walking stick and confidently pulled her down the hall,
leading the way to the cafeteria as if you had been there countless times before.
As we drove around our Texas town, you would memorize and point out each school,
differentiating them based on which of our church friends, piano students and babysitters went there.
When we moved to Utah, your excitement grew even more as the school bus stopped right in front of our house. You would frequently watch, transfixed, as your friend boarded the bus on his way to kindergarten.
On your 5th birthday, you were elated because you were finally the age you needed to be to attend school!
And finally, it was your turn.
I watched your animated face as we stopped by the grocery store on our way to drop you off
on your first day of kindergarten.
I watched as you proudly told every employee we passed that you were going to school.
I watched your excitement and confidence as we walked you into your classroom,
hugged and kissed you good-bye,
and left you sitting with your classmates around that alphabet rug.
And I held myself together really well, even as we walked out of the school and Lincoln started shouting,
"Ta-age? Ta-age? Where-a going?? Where Ta-age?"
And everything was fine when we got home until I put your brothers down for naps
and the song "Homeward Bound" began to play.
And I sat there on the stairs, my face buried in my arms, fighting back the tears, as I listened to the words,
"Bind me not to the pasture, chain me not to the plow, set me free to find my calling, and I'll return to you somehow."
And as I sat in that crumpled heap, I kept asking myself, "Why is it so hard?"
Why is it so hard to see our children grow up?
Why do important milestones carry with them a sense of grief with the excitement?
Is it because I have regrets about the past?
Is it because each milestone takes you one step further from me and closer to your independence?
It is because I long for you to be able to cling to the innocence of youth?
Is it just because I've loved past stages and don't yet know the joy a new stage will bring?
Is it because I wish I could spare you the pain of growth, even while knowing it is ultimately for your good?
Is it simply because childhood passes in the blink of an eye and then you will be away?
Do I already miss what is not yet gone?
My tearful wonderings were inconclusive,
as I sat there thinking of future milestones that will bring me such satisfaction along with the pain.
But I know that growing up has brought me such joy despite the hardships along the way,
and so it is that I find myself trying desperately to prepare you
for the course of life you will face
and push you toward each painfully joyful landmark in life.
With all my love,