"Are you ready?" Ohhhh, definitely.
I wasn't ready.
"I'm not ready for this." The thought pulsed through my head as Jeff and I followed the other parents, as they marched, like a herd of cows, through the doors on Back to School Night. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing, where they were going. Past the main office, past the booths selling t-shirts, past the flyers for the millions of dojos in town. We held hands through the swarm and I squeezed Jeff's hand too tight. It hurts him, I know it hurts him, but I'm an emotional hand-holder. I squeeze hands when I'm touched, when I'm angry, when I'm happy, and in this case, when I'm about to throw up out of nervousness.
I wasn't ready.
We all mill into a giant room that is a gym, but for some reason, isn't called a gym, but a multi-purpose room or meeting room or something really nondescript and vague. I hate that. Just call it a gym. I can tell Jeff feels it too, the feeling that our world has just shifted and we're supposed to sit calmly as the principal announces all of the teachers like they're an NBA lineup. "Let's get ready to ruuuuuuumble!" The people behind us sit and gossip about the first-grade teachers and the PTA. "Oh, Tiffany got treasurer? Really??" I want to stand on my folding chair and yell at them. I don't care if you wanted your kid to have Mrs. Boucher, this is a big deal. I feel like I can't breathe -- there feels like there is something pokey in my chest. I will Web MD that later: pokey chest, The painted dolphins on the walls are laughing at me, I swear they are. After all, dolphins are super smart. They're smart enough to know that I'm having a breakdown. Home of the Dolphins! Don't throw up in the multi-purpose room! It's really just a gym! You're not ready!
I wasn't ready.
The PTA president gives an intense talk and all I get from it is that my kid will won't succeed and will probably become a garbageman if I don't join the PTA. I think that's what she said. Oh, and you can buy dolphin shirts up by the office. We meet his teacher and she's nice, but maybe a little intense and we fill out a million forms and there's a fish with his name on it and oh, is that a tear in my eye or maybe just allergies? Some really gung-ho moms push their way to the front and sign up to be the main room mothers, but there are still about 10,000 slots left for volunteers. We love it when you volunteer! But never, ever, ever bring food. I stare at the line that asks what my volunteering availability is. My first instinct is to put ALWAYS down, but I decide to put EVERY DAY 9-5 down instead, I put the 9-5 down to maybe trick people into thinking that I have a job after 5 fighting crime or maybe working in one of the aforementioned million dojos. In reality, I spend my evenings on the couch, eating junk food and watching Jeff be productive. Right now he's studying Russian and I just ate a Snickers. I like to buy candy at the grocery store checkout. I tell the kids they can't have any, but when they aren't looking, I put candy bars for me up on the conveyor belt. They're short -- they can't see.
Obviously, I wasn't ready.
We make our way back through the halls. Suddenly, the PTA booths are fully manned. They've got sign-ups and laser eyes. JUST STARE AT THE GROUND, JEFF. THEY CAN SMELL OUR FEAR. IF WE LOOK UP, I MIGHT HAVE TO SIGN UP AND WORK WITH TIFFANY THE TREASURER AND I'M NOT READY. ALSO I DON'T LIKE TO BAKE. I WONDER IF I CAN JUST SIGN UP TO BUY BAKED GOODS AND NOT ACTUALLY BAKE THEM. I MIGHT BE WILLING TO DO THAT IN THE NAME OF SCHOOL SPIRIT. GO DOLPHINS.
We drive home and we make small talk because we don't really have the words to describe how terrifying that was. We fear in our hearts that we are throwing our baby into a world that is suddenly huge. The world grew significantly from 5-6 pm on Back to School Night. Before it was stuffed animals and forts in front of the TV, but now it's standardized tests and bullies and naughty words heard on the bus.
I wasn't ready.
But we get home and we see him, this little boy, sure to be the smallest in his class and all of the sudden, he is the baby who looked us both in the eyes immediately after birth, but he is also more. He is the boy who will hear the naughty words, take the tests and face the bullies. He will grow and learn and love it and I will always see the face of that baby, but I will bite my tongue and keep that secret in a deep part in my heart. I wasn't ready. I will miss him, even as my feet crunch Legos, I will miss him. I know that in reality, he isn't gone that much, but I know that there is something that is gone and will never come back, and why didn't anyone warn me? Why didn't anyone ever tell me that I would want him to grow up and learn new things and meet new people and become everything that I know he will be, but my heart would mourn at the same time?
I think I figured something out as I walked around Adam's school.
I will never be ready.
But I'll sign the forms and bake the cookies anyway.
*The principal didn't really say "Let's get ready to rumble," of course and I can't remember what the name of the treasurer is. Whoever you are, keep your PTA friends close and your PTA enemies closer.*