I thought it would start out a certain way. That’s the way it goes – you scenario-ize this sort of thing, but it never really happens exactly the way you imagined or planned it.
I thought the big yellow school bus would come and pick him up, like it did little Forrest Gump at the end of Forrest Gump, and that, however unlike that scene, I would cry a little bit, the tears dripping into the cup of coffee perpetually stuck to my lips in the morning. I would wave goodbye to little Jude as he trundled off on the bus, and that would be that. But, it didn’t start that way; it started with my bringing him to school on the first day and walking him into the classroom. And there’s a curious side note there – how the way we often start something, the details of the way in which we do it, especially when it’s the beginning of something significant – tend to be the way we continue to do it day after day. Almost half a school year later, I still park in the same Visitor’s spot in the parking lot every morning and go inside with Jude and spend just about the same amount of time, and we hug and kiss, and then I go. Once or twice I did tear-up a little bit as I was driving away ; it’s just all so darn sweet, relieving, and joyous.
Other things have progressed just the way you’d think they would – the things you’d see in yet some other movie about child-rearing, or read in a book, or have heard from another parent who joined the club before you. For instance, every night Jude calls me back into his room after being tucked in bed to tell me “one more last thing.” (And that’s exactly how it feels, too – from morning until night he is a tiny juggernaut of inquisition, statement, demand, and insanity.) Last night he called me back in, and there he lay, staring wide with wonder into the darkened ceiling asking, “Daddy, why do we bonk our heads and lose all our membries and moo like a cow?”
What’s interesting is the rich, internal life the child begins to develop, the individual story they begin to have – things you find out about from other people. Like, the other day I was dropping him off at class and one of the teacher’s aides said to me, “Jude is really good at math.” Cool, I thought, good to know. And then there’s yesterday morning – as I’m leaving, after scooping him up and kissing him goodbye, the teacher tells me that Jude’s show-and-tell the last couple of days has been a dissertation on “Why My Daddy Is My Best Friend.” Now, that’s heartwarming. But I don’t think it’s always going to be these little tidbits of good, cuddly news. I realize that, in time, the reports I’m going to get will be more along the lines of, “Today, Jude tried to light a classmate’s hair on fire using two stones for a flint.” In which case I’ll think, Cool. He’s resourceful.
So, no – it’s never going to be exactly how you thought it would go… but, with the surprises and the unexpected laughs – it tends to be even better.