I watched my baby officially become a little boy this week. He was excited, I was excited: first day of kindergarten.
This is big boy stuff, I told him. No potty talk allowed and the teacher expects you to listen. And Mommy and Daddy definitely don't want to hear you ended up in the principal's office, I reminded him. Plus, you'll have homework now, I added.
He thought about all of this and after a few, "Aww, I don't like school," moans, he changed his tune to excitement. Often, he'd tell family and friends, "Did you know? I'm going to kindergarten," in a rather proud and deep voice, big smile plastered on his little tan face.
Of course, everyone congratulated him as if he had accomplished a major feat.
On the morning of his first day, he was far from nervous, instead hollering at me, "Mom, we have to go to kindergarten!" after waking up.
There was no battle to brush his teeth or even eat breakfast without cartoons.
"Did you know? I'm going to kindergarten today," he enthusiastically reminded a friend of ours at breakfast.
He put his little uniform — which I ironed the night before — on with ease. "Do you have to iron the clothes at night for kindergarten?" he asked me. I smiled. "No, I just wanted to be prepared."
"I want my Nike socks," he said and put them on himself. And he chose his Skechers new amazing air shoes, as he calls them, for his first day. Again, he didn't need my help.
When it came time to head out the door, he insisted on carrying his backpack. "I can do it, Mom," he assured me. And before I could say, "You sure?," it was strapped on to his tiny shoulders.
We took that famous shot all parents take on their kid's first day: in the driveway or in front of the house, goofy smile and, of course, the backpack in tow.
The backpack is a big issue. We tried to sway him toward the supercool Iron Man one, but in the end he chose one with a basketball, football and baseball on it. It looked so grown-up, so unlike him.
Once we got to school, he insisted he could carry it again. My husband led him to the line outside for his class while I put away some of the requested supplies.
After a quick assembly (in which he was whisked away and cried a bit) he found me again, and this time, didn't let go of my hand until we got inside the classroom. I take my moments when I can get them these days.
We found his desk with his name on it and a boy he knew from his preschool said, "Hi." My son waved at him. A few pictures and moments later, it was time for parents to leave.
"Daddy will be back in a couple of hours to get you," I whispered as I hugged him, a twinge of jealousy hitting me. My husband would get to see our little guy's face when he picked him up, get the enthusiastic "Daddy!" greeting and get to hear all the details of his first day.
I didn't cry and was barely misty-eyed. A school employee cheered us on as we walked away.
I've been through this before, when he was 3 and I sent him to preschool for the first time. He was so young then. What if another kid bit him or what if he cried the whole day because he didn't know where I was?
I sobbed in the car that time and called my mother in tears. And when I went back to work full-time and put him in all-day child care, I sobbed during that first car ride down to the office.
But this time, I knew we were good. After all, we're best pals in the whole wide world forever and we can handle anything together. Well, at least for now.
As we walked out, I told my husband, "Well, it's official. We've got ourselves a kindergartner."
He smiled and put his arm around me.
Yeah, we've got this covered. It's just kindergarten and he's still my little guy — and I'm not letting go.
ALISHA GOMEZ is the managing editor of the Daily Pilot, Huntington Beach Independent and Coastline Pilot. She can be reached at email@example.com.