Amidst the sea of little people and their mommies and daddies, she looked lost and confused as she peered down toward the double doors. She was not alone; it was only the second day of school and not only is it a new school year, but it’s a brand new school. We’re all learning, trying to get our barrings, trying to get a handle on some semblance of a routine.
I approached to see if I could help. “Ma’am? Is everything okay?”
“Did my son already go inside?” She didn’t look at me, only toward the double doors that led inside our two-story primary school.
“Was he going to breakfast?” I asked. We were standing near the breakfast doors, so I figured I knew her answer. But I wanted to know why she looked so sad.
“Oh. Then yes, he did.”
There was a pause before she continued. “I thought there’d be a line. I didn’t know he’d go in so quickly.” She kept looking toward the doors, and her words were slow, sad, almost in disbelief. “I would have liked to give him a hug goodbye.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, meaning it. She wasn’t complaining, she wasn’t rude, she was just letting her heart leak out a little bit. “Would you like me to get him for you?”
“That’s okay. I just… wish I could’ve given him one more hug goodbye.” Again, so sad. And still staring down at the doors in the direction of her son.
“What grade is he in?”
“Kindergarten.” It was the second day for first and second grades, but only the first day for Kindergarten. Her baby’s first First Day of school, her baby’s only First First Day.
“Oh! Hold on one minute, okay? I’m going to get him for you.” She had said no before, but now she appeared grateful. Because a mama’s heart on the first day of Kindergarten is breaking and soaring all at once, and it’s not too much to ask for just one more hug, because from this moment forward everything changes.
I hurried back inside, wanting to catch him before he got to the breakfast line. I saw him across the cafeteria, eager to start his day in this brand new building, eager to see his teacher again and play with his friends and learn the months of the year and the days of the week.
“Aaron,” I said when I got to him. “Aaron, sweetie, your mom wants to give you one more hug goodbye. Come with me, okay?” I held out my hand for him to take it. He looked at my hand, and then at my face.
“She does?!” His face lit up with confusion and delight. “Okay!”
He chit-chatted all the way back outside without any help from me, talking about what he was excited for but also wondering aloud, “Why she wanna give me another hug?” When we crossed over from inside to outside, his steps quickened into a hop-slash-trot. I held him back a little for safety, but when he saw his mom it did no good.
“One more hug, mom? Okay!” She bent down, he stretched up, wrapping his tiny arms around his mama’s neck, straining on his tippy-toes. Her tears streamed down her face despite her attempt to stop them, to which her baby boy said in his perfectly high-pitched 5-year-old voice, “It’s okay, mom. It’s okay! ‘S okay. One more hug, mom. ‘S okay.” His joy and compassion mixed into a beautiful song of a little boy who was so secure in his mother’s love that he could comfort her in this moment, and be excited to leave her for a day because he knew – he knew – she’d be there for him when he was ready to go home.
“I love you, baby. I love you. Have a great day, okay?” Her voice wavered as she held on tight.
“Okay, mom! Okay!” His arms stayed steady as he gave his mama what she needed.
After a kiss to his forehead, Aaron happily turned around to take my hand. He all but leaped back into school, ready for his day, ready for the unknown, ready for the greatness he was absolutely certain lie inside our school walls. Without words, his attitude screamed, “C’mon, guys! Isn’t this the greatest?! Let’s do this!!”
As the first week of school comes to a close, this little boy reminded me of being excited for the unknown. And he reminded me that it’s okay, ‘s okay, when sometimes it’s difficult moving toward that unknown. It’s hard to stare something in the face when we have no clue what is on the other side. We want all the answers, we want to know everything’s going to be okay, we want to hold on to what we know for just a little while longer because even if what we know is kind of crappy, we know it. But we only feel that way because we’re old enough to have experienced disappointments, failures, and extreme frustrations.
But ‘s okay, because excitement lies in tomorrow, in the anticipation of what life has for us if we only step up and reach for it. ‘S okay, because the only way we can become the best version of ourselves is by challenging ourselves, facing ourselves, pushing ourselves to heights we never thought we could reach. ‘S okay, because even if the unknown presents with disappointment, failure, and frustration, all lead to us living our best life.
The unknown is the scariest place on planet earth, in my humble opinion. But the next time I’m faced with an unknown and I want to hold on just a little bit longer to my known world, I’m going to think of this little boy. And I’m going to think, ‘S okay, I got this. ‘S okay, God’s got my back. ‘S okay. ‘S okay. Let’s do this.