These were just some of the emotions bouncing through my house as I prepared my son, Justice, for his first day of preschool. As I picked out his curls, all those feelings seemed to ricochet off the mirror right back at us. I had been given advice by other parents that today would involve a lot of tissues for the frayed nerves. But as I put the finishing touches on my son's hair, it was clear the pent-up anxiety wasn't coming from the kid entering a whole new world.
It was all me.
This first day had been looming for a month or so, and I thought my big task would entail sowing the seeds of expectations in my son's mind. I'd been ramping up the prep on Justice in the week prior but as the clock ticked down, it became clear which one of us needed a hug.
As a stay-at-home parent for the past three years, I can't imagine a closer bond between father and son. I always dreamed of becoming a dad, but this experience was exponentially deeper and more gratifying than I could have ever imagined.
The unknown of saying goodbye, even if it was for just a few hours, was enough to almost make me physically ill.
I walked Justice into his classroom at Valrico's The Village Early Learning Center, and he played Jeff Van Gundy to my Alonzo Mourning, clutching my leg for dear life. Ah, finally, this was the trepidation I had been expecting. I introduced him to his teacher and classmates as he sheepishly loosened his grip on my tibia.
Then he saw a tricycle and was gone.
I chatted with his teacher for a minute, asking about an exit strategy. Should I make a big production of goodbyes or just slink out? She said it was up to me and in fear of breaking out into tears, I slid out the door as my heart dropped to the floor.
The next few hours were torturous. Like root canal torturous. I went to the gym and worked out, grabbed some lunch, did some writing — anything to keep my mind busy. I got back to the school just shy of noon and peered through the window at his class.
There was Justice, sitting side-by-side with his classmates at a long table. He politely passed a basket of food to the girl on his left. He was smiling. He was far from frazzled. He looked calm as a high school senior holding court in the lunchroom.
And just like that, all my nervousness, fear and angst disappeared. My little boy was on his way and, at least for this one day, there were no tears.
Except for Daddy.
Brandon Wright is a married father of one who lives in Seffner.