Today was a big day for Baylor. With a new change in school policy, I was going to have to sign in and pick up a badge every morning to walk him to his classroom through the school, and knowing how late we usually run I knew this would only make us more late (and me feel even more guilty for being just a little behind every day). So, we decided that he was going to need to start walking himself to his classroom. When I first brought this up last week he was very, VERY resistant to the idea; he was just sure he wasn't brave enough or that he was going to walk into a wall and get hurt. We talked about it over the weekend, though, and worked out a reward system to get him started on it. This morning we went over the plan, that he would get a star for each day he walked to his class by himself and after five stars I would buy him a treat at swim school after his lesson, not making him pay me back for it ... which he really hates doing. On the way to school, he asked if we could make it less than five stars since he was really nervous about it and it was really new to him, and I agreed that that was a good idea. So after two stars, he'll get a prize of some sort, then after three he'll get his swim school treat, then he'll need five next week to get the same treat.
Still, I wondered if he was going to be able to do it, if his courage would come through. I knew the motivation was good enough and his smiles told me that he really wanted to. But, nerves being what they are, he started to get upset a bit when we got inside the school. I walked him past the gym and just in front of the office for our little send off. I told him I'd be waiting right there until he got to the end of the hallway and had to turn. And wait we did. He slowly, slowly sidled his way down the hallway, sliding his right arm along the wall to ground himself now that he was alone. When he came to the opening for another hallway, he darted across with parents admonishing him to get to class, the bell had rung. He slid along the wall a little more then scuttled a bit, cutting the corner before the library. His principal was watching with me, happy to see the little man getting a little bit more independent, and he said he'd go make sure Baylor got to class alright. Then he bounded off as we saw Baylor hesitantly round the corner out of my sight.
I will say that not getting to walk him to class was a little hard on me, much more so than I thought it would be. That extra bit of independence takes him one step farther from the little baby I cared for, the little toddler whose hand I held, and I felt almost a little bit of a loss today as I watched him trek off alone. I know that the future only holds more of these moments, so I'm bracing myself for more floods of memories and accompanying feelings. And I don't know if it will be more difficult because I'll likely have to force his hand a bit, pushing him toward the independence that so many kids are more than happy to embrace, all the while wishing I had a little more time to hold that hand, stand nearby for that extra hug. I just have to hope that he knows I'll always be there for him, ready with a hug or a smile whenever he needs it.
Ultimately, I'm so proud of my little guy for doing something he was so scared to do; he hates the idea of being more independent and really likes having someone familiar nearby when he is venturing out, even if it is some place he's been many times before. This is a huge step for him, one I've been hoping for since the first day of school, and I hope he felt proud of himself for his efforts. I know I certainly am.