Toma Mi Mano

It was the first of a series of trial days at Pachamama, the school we are heavily considering for next year for our son Darwin. After two years at a small guardaria in Tumbaco, a nice mix of play with some learning in a cozy environment, he was ready for the next step.

Encompassing all the magical hippie ideals that we love, Pachamama is set on a beautiful campus in the mountains. Montessori-style with a classroom designed more like a house for tiny people including a mini kitchen where they make breakfast together everyday. Of course, washing their own dishes after eating. Stations set up ranging from art, to science, math and letters all neatly displayed within arms reach. Unstructured in the kind of way that if he wants to spend all day in the sandbox with trucks, he can. But with practical rules enforcing respect for himself and others.

A rock climbing wall. An area with real tools for building. And little brooms and dustpans in every corner encouraging the kind of routine I approve of.

He’ll love it.

We know he will.

But the first day is always hard.

His little face scrunched up with concern as we entered the building. New people. Unfamiliar. And even though we had prefaced the day with excitement, in the moment. He was afraid. Crouching down behind my knees, both hands grasping for mine, we gently reiterated the plan.

Give mama a kiss, I say. Signaling it’s time to part ways.

He does. And somewhat bashfully follows the rest of the kids to a field where according to the teacher, a game of soccer is about to begin.

At the end of the day, we ask him how it went.

He was in good spirits chattering away. But said with some sadness that no one would hold his hand. That he didn’t want to go back. And that his friends at Huellitas always held his hand.

Inside my heart breaks, like it did that morning when he asked me to stay. But I hold strong and explain to him that being new is tough. It takes time to make friends. And once people get to know him better, I’m sure he will have many friends that will want to hold his hand.

The next morning, we arrive to kids doing yoga.

Swoon.

After which a game involving running and colors commences.

He sits on my lap watching the kids for a moment. Asks me to adjust his hat a little tighter. Whispers, stay here mama. And joins in the game.

In the meantime, my husband returns.

Let’s go, he says.

I said I would wait, I tell him. Knowing full well the best thing to do is to leave now.

With a heavy heart, I hold strong again. Peering back as we hop in the car.

He’s fine.

If he noticed my absence, he wasn’t letting it slow him down. My husband says something about him not needing us anymore, and I feel that feeling of sadness that strikes sometimes when I realize that he’s not my baby anymore. And that our days with him being the baby are numbered. In the middle of the night when he climbs into our bed, half-asleep and talking nonsense from whatever residual dream still clouds his mind. Snuggling between us, my growing belly a reminder that his time in this space here between the covers will come to an end in a few short months.

But I hold strong.

As does he.

My heart swelling with parental pride, washing away that sense of sadness of what will no longer be, with gratitude and excitement for what life is about to bring.

A new baby girl. A daughter. A sister. A best friend.

I watch him laughing with his friends as the car pulls away.

Look how fast he is, Nate says. Launching into a story about the other day when Darwin was chasing him.

Both of us seeing two different things in the final scene.

Realizing in our own way that our son is ready.

In fact, I think we all are.

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