I leave him notes in the morning:
1. Your lunch is packed.
2. Your planner is signed.
3. Your homework is in the green folder.
4. Have a great day!
I write these notes because he wakes like bottled carbonation that’s been shaken all night long. Every paper, every expectation from his teacher, every piece of the morning routine loosens his cap until his anxiety rains down on anyone in his splash zone. He’s convinced this will be the day something is forgotten. This will be the day he will be on the receiving end of his teacher’s stern voice. This will be the day he looks something less than perfect. This very day will be the day.
The first morning I wrote him a note, he missed it in his frantic dance to rifle through his backpack to check to make sure all of his papers were there. His note fluttered to the floor where he promptly stepped on it and kicked it beneath the chair to mingle with the dust and missing Lego pieces.
Last year, my boy soaked up his teacher’s sugary sweetness like a hummingbird at its feeder, and he was happy. Praise was plentiful, and he was bolstered by her attention and affection. He loved her.
“Second grade just isn’t the same.”
With his fluency tests and math practice and Rocket math and spelling words and social studies work scattered on the kitchen table, I can see worry and anxiety in his perfect face. I can see it behind his eyes. I can see how tired it makes him. I can see myself in there.
One night while I curled next to my boy, tickling his arm and singing our favorite lullabies, he whispered, “This is the worriers’ bed.”
I was ashamed, ashamed that I’m transparent to an 8-year old. I promised to conceal my anxiety and concern. I thought I did. I’m so much better than I was.
I cupped his face in my hands, his porcelain cheeks smooth against my palms. They fit just right there—for now. “Let me do your worrying. Give that to me, okay buddy?”
He leaned against me and his tired eyes surrendered.
I was worried, but I didn’t want him to feel it slithering into my chest and tightening around my heart and furrowing my brow, so I kissed his forehead and left his room.
I want to carry his worry. I want to take that away from him. I worry that it’s too late.
All of a sudden I hate second grade.
But I know it’s not second grade. It’s not his teacher. It’s not the work.
The weight of that slumps my shoulders, and I’m reminded just how delicate this parenting gig is. I fear I’m one word or one look away from sending my first born to therapy sessions where I become “that woman” who held her boy to unreasonable expectations, who made him strive for perfection, who (insert emotional trauma here).
So I promise to change. And I wallow. And I put spare change from the floor into his therapy fund just in case.
And I worry.
A few days later while my boy is walking out of hockey practice, a mom asks, “64? Cool! Who is 64?”
All the boys fight for their favorite player’s number.
“That’s me. Noah Gallo. I’m 64. Me.”
I want to shower him with kisses, but I know better.
He isn’t so fragile and delicate. I savor his confidence. While I do have to work on wearing my worry or disapproval or concern on my face, I know that my boy isn’t all worry. There is so much more to him than that.
Tomorrow when I leave his note, I’m going to include this:
This confidence, this happiness, this joy is all part of the package. And for a few seconds, I’m not worried.