I pulled up to the curb of my son’s school, just like I had the previous 719 times, save for a handful of times when the occasional flu bug or “self-esteem day” kept my son home from school for the day. The warm June sun peeking up over the Idaho mountains gave promise to a beautiful day ahead.
When we left the house, I hadn’t given much thought to our morning, as it was like any other. We woke up 30 minutes before we had to leave, showered, chowed down some breakfast, grabbed our stuff, and bolted out the door. As usual, we negotiated the iTunes playlist that would govern our 20-minute drive to school.
So, why was today so different?
Before he got out of the car, my son asked if his tie looked okay or if it was crooked. Straightening it up a bit, I reassured him that he looked fantastic. Seeing as how it is his last day at the elementary school he’s known for four years, he decided to dress up for the occasion. Most kids might snag the first comfy shorts and t-shirt they could find, but my son made me go out last night and pick him out a button-up shirt, loan him one of my ties, and shine up his nicest dress shoes for his last day.
Don’t kids normally dress nice for the first day of school, I asked myself?
Outside, at the curb, he popped open the door to my Mustang and paused before rolling out. Getting out of a Mustang can be difficult, you know. In the pregnant moment before getting out, he seemed like he had something to say.
“You ready for this, bud?” I asked.
“Yeah, Dad. It’s just hard to believe,” he replied, as I noted a touch of longing in his voice.
He rose up out of the car, as he had so many times before, but today, he looked a bit taller—a bit more adult-like. Standing outside the car in his shirt and tie, I no longer saw an elementary schoolkid; I saw a young man.
He told me he loved me and bid me farewell, exactly how he had the last 700+ times, but when I heard my car door click, something else clicked…
This is the last time I will ever drop off one of my own children at an elementary school.
This got me thinking, as I drove to the office (my summer session begins today, in about 45 minutes).
As parents, we spend the tenure of our guardianship celebrating firsts: first word, first steps, first day of school, first date, first drive alone, etc., ad nauseum.
What if we started noticing and savoring our lasts equally as much?
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’ve shed a few tears this morning, lamenting the inevitable and knowing my youngest is growing up, but I’m also appreciative that I was able to recognize the gravity of this morning’s drop-off.
I am exceedingly grateful that, even early in the morning (I am SO not a morning person), I was present enough to savor those last few moments, thereby cementing them in my mind for later, when it’s time to recount the tale, possibly to grandkids someday.
Later today, my wife and I will go pick up our kids from their last day at school, at which point, we will drive around with the windows down, blaring and singing along to Alice Cooper’s song, School’s Out, as we do every year. They’ll get ice cream, and we’ll have a movie night tonight in celebration of the start of our summer.
Our children may have a lifetime of firsts ahead of them, well into adulthood, but it is their lasts we must learn to savor.