It’s a daunting number. Really, it’s huge. Incomprehensible to me. But, when Noah was born, Father Time started his slow countdown at 169,327,600ish seconds, eyes covered, hiding in the corner. Steadily counting down from there, playing a slow game of hide-and-go-seek. At the time zero seemed so far away, I didn’t really hear him. In these last five years, there have been times when he’s seemed to not be counting those seconds as quickly as I would have liked, when I thought I surely wasn’t going to make it another 360 seconds until Dad got home, or another 60 seconds of Noah screaming and me not knowing how to console him, when I've consulted him and thought, "Surely, that's not right. Not enough of those little suckers have passed."
There were also times, happy times, when it seemed I blinked and an entire 86,400 seconds slipped out of his lips. Yes, there have been times when I’ve barely noticed him, for time has surely flown as we’ve had our fun. Father Time isn’t creepily counting down in the corner. He’s just faithfully ticking off the seconds, consistently letting me know zero is gradually drawing nearer.
Right now, I’m at 518,400 seconds. That means that in approximately 6 days, Noah will start Kindergarten. Father Time will come out of the corner, sweetly chant his, “Ready or not, here I come,” and escort Noah out the door to a new phase of life. School life. Where time is marked by grades.
Let me assure you, Father Time, I really dislike you’re little sing-song phrase right now, because I am most certainly ready not.
You see, up to now, Noah’s life has been marked by small chunks of time and milestones. At 6 months, he sat up by himself. At about 9 months, he started crawling. At about a year, he started walking. About two months after that, he was running. At about eighteen months, he crawled into his toddler bed for the very first time. At two years old, he started speaking in two word phrases that were understandable, and I quit telling people his age by months, instead opting for letting Noah tell people he was “two years owd”. At three he potty trained (somewhat late, for this mom’s preference). At four he moved up to a twin bed and lost the security railing. At five, he got his first big boy bike and we’re almost ready to remove the training wheels.
While these milestones are all meaningful, they’re different than the years ahead. To me, starting school has always been so…big. So scary, like the funeral of the firsts. It seems like it's our very last 'first' anything, in a world where all we've known thus far are firsts, even as I really thought I was ready for some lasts!!! I won’t be there to protect him from the harsh world we live in. To hold his hand when he crosses every street. To brush back his hair when it’s in his face, to watch his mind click off understanding faster than I can speak. To hear him giggle as he reads during rest time, or to see him round a corner, chasing his brother during the middle of the day. He’ll have friends I don’t know, events I don’t see, triumphs all his own, disappointments I can’t comprehend. Up to now, I’ve experienced most of those by his side. This last year, especially as we did school at home, he’s been mine, all day and all night. I think that the growing independence is a natural part of growing up, but it’s still so hard.
So, on Monday, when Father Time has clicked off the last seconds of Noah being at home with us, I’ll be so sad. I’m not going to pretend it’s not a big deal, but I’ll be brave for him. He needs to see me be proud of him, for he’ll never know how truly proud I am, for how hard we fought to get him to this point. After Monday, people will ask what grade he's in. Right now, those chunks of time seem so huge. We’ve only got until 12th grade until he’s out the door, truly on his own, but that’s just thirteen milestones from now. Thirteen. I could name thirteen milestones he met in his first few months of life, so it seems to me that the distance till high school graduation is smaller, somehow, than the distance from when he was born. I know that’s not the case, but it just seems so much like time is marching on at a steadier more globalized pace, outside my realm of control. And in a little over half a million seconds, he’ll still be mine, but he’ll be more his own, too.
I’m so so so proud of who our Noah has become, and I really am excited for his next phase, more than most of you know. But for now, I’ll cry a little when I stop long enough to listen to the countdown.
I’ve got to continually loosen my grip of Noah's hand until I let it go completely on Monday. Wasn't it just yesterday that his hand was only able to wrap around my finger, and my hand was holding his whole head? That my arms weren't even free to hold his hand, because his entire body rested in them?
So on Monday I’ll wave and tell him to have a great day, and I’ll hold my tears until at least the car (Right, moms? I’ll be able to do that, right?!?!) and I’ll pray like I’ve never prayed before. And, when I get home I’ll stare in the corner formerly occupied by Father Time, surrounded not by the countdown, but swaddled in silence, and I’ll thank God for these 169,327,600ish seconds in which I got to be with my Noah in a way I’ll never get to again.