This is my son, Emmett.
I took the photo about 40 minutes ago, at the bus stop where he’ll now stand every day on the mornings of middle school.
Today is his first day of sixth grade, meaning it’s also his first day of the wife and/or I no longer driving him up to school, then walking him to a courtyard. He’s not even 11 yet, but it feels different. I’m sad. I’m happy. I’m crushed. I’m giddy. I’ve written this before, and I’ll write it again: No one prepares a parent for this shit.
Oh, they prepare you for sleepless nights. They prepare you for crying. They prepare you for carnival rides, for vacations, for midnight throw-ups, for drop offs at the grandparents. They prepare you for As and Ds, for scratches and cuts and broken bones. They prepare you for bullies and mean teachers and coaches who don’t know the first thing about coaching. They prepare you for boyfriends and girlfriends and sips of whiskey behind the bleachers. They prepare you for calls to the principal’s office.
What they don’t prepare you for is the bittersweet symphony of growing up; of not needing you quite so much; of choosing friends over Mom and Dad.
My son didn’t see the bus stop as any big deal. He bounded out of the car, grabbed his backpack from the seat and waved to his awaiting friends. He said, “Bye, Dad,” then walked off into the abyss that is sixth grade.
He didn’t look back to see me crying.