Confession: I tailed the school bus all the way to campus on my oldest child’s first day of kindergarten. I sobbed every mile of it. Sure, I scooted him up the steps of that bus with bright eyes and a winning smile. I tried to act like Marlin at the end of Finding Nemo and told him to go have an adventure! But when those folding doors squeaked shut and the driver shifted the beast into gear, the exhaust of a 4-ton vehicle belched right in my brave face, as if to try and melt it. And it succeeded. I felt so alone.

Of course, I wasn’t alone. I had two more babies in the back seat ready to go home and have their breakfast. But breakfast would have to wait. What if my first baby still needed me? What if he got off the bus and found himself disoriented despite our dry run the day before? What if he couldn’t find his teacher? What if he met a bully? What if he had to go to the bathroom before class started and couldn’t find it? What would he do without me??

I still remember the look he gave me when he spotted me and the red stroller 20 yards away from the door of his new classroom. I had not only shamelessly followed the bus, but parked, and hauled my toddlers over to the kindergarten wing, just in case my big kid should look helpless or lost. I would spring right out of the woodwork with a tissue and a kind word and he would look up at me with big glassy eyes and be so grateful and I would know just what to do.

Well, that’s not at all how it went down. He was just about to line up, per kindergarten protocol, when the crowd parted and he spied my tear streaked face and hesitant wave.

His first reaction was surprise. Didn’t I just leave you back at the bus stop 7 miles from here? Then embarrassment. What are you doing here?? None of the other moms are making such a fuss! Then finally, reluctant acceptance. Ok Mom, I love you too. See ya this afternoon. Bye!

And that was it. The bell rang. The classroom door shut. The halls got quiet. It was time to let go.

I cried all the way home.

When he finally did return some 8 hours later, I peppered him with questions. Well, how was it? Is your teacher nice? Did you make a friend? How was lunch?

“Fine.”

And that was it. Kindergartner 1. Helicopter Mom 0.

I’ve since learned to dial back the smothering mother bit. I haven’t followed a school bus in years. But still, each milestone tugs at my heartstrings.

That same kindergartner who snubbed me just turned twelve. He passed the sacrament for the first time on Sunday. Never mind the fact that I can barely keep him in shoes with his feet growing at this rate, and that the pants I bought him last month are floods now. Never mind that in one more year and he’ll be taller than me and I’m tall. Watching him receive the priesthood and being ordained a deacon, watching him carry out the sacred duty of passing the emblems of our Savior’s sacrifice… he looked and felt more grown up than he ever did lining up outside that kindergarten door.

Right when I thought my little boy was gone forever, a man now, the Bishop invited the deacons to return and sit with their families. My son scooted through to the middle of the pew to sit down by me, held my hand and whispered in my ear about how nervous he was.

I looked up at him with big glassy eyes. I was so grateful. He knew just what to do.

Read more by Margaret Anderson at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com