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SAVOR EVERY MOMENT
OF TOTS' TIME AT HOME

The day I sometimes longed for, anticipated and worried about has come and gone. After being home for five years, my son, Tyler, entered kindergarten this fall. Two years of driving him to pre-K for a few hours was just long enough to help prepare us for that big day.

When he was an infant, people would tell me to enjoy every minute with him because before I knew it, he'd be in kindergarten and with a blink of an eye he'd be leaving for college.

In August, we did the usual preparation for school. We bought some new clothes -- of course, a 5-year-old boy only cares about superhero underwear and T-shirts -- and the school supplies that were needed.

About a week or so before school started, my anxiety started to surface. I wondered how he and I would handle the day. After all, we had been each other's "buddy" for a long time. The night before the first day of school, my husband and I tucked him into bed. About 20 minutes later, he called me into his room to say, "Mommy, I'm going to miss you tomorrow." A huge lump appeared in my throat. They are words I love to hear, but at the same time, I wanted to reassure him that everything was OK and that his school day would be exciting and fun.

As I woke Tyler the next morning, he wanted to know if he really had to get up when it was a little dark outside. Minutes later, he said he couldn't wait to wear his new Spiderman underwear and clothes. So far, so good, I thought, although I felt a pit in the bottom of my stomach. I was glad he seemed OK. He ate very little breakfast because he was so excited about his first day of school and riding the bus.

At the bus stop, when he heard the bus make the turn around the corner, he stopped in his tracks and just stared at it. I knew this was it -- he would get on that bus and I would no longer have control of his day.

When he took his seat, he looked out the window at my husband and I with a look of terror, as if to say: "I can't believe I'm leaving alone and you're not coming with me."

As I watched the bus pull away, that lump appeared in my throat again and my eyes got teary. I walked back into my house and felt a weird emptiness.

My house was very quiet -- no cartoons in the morning and no one asking if we could go to McDonald's for lunch. I decided I'd stay around the house for the first few days, just in case. I was pretty sure he'd be fine, but it made me feel better.

As the bus pulled up at 2:45 for drop off, my son hopped off. I greeted him with a smile, a hug and a high five. He then stood close to my side and held my hand. My buddy was back -- until tomorrow.

So treasure the days when your children are infants and toddlers, even though some days are hard and you want to pull your hair out. As for me, I'm keeping these days close to my heart, just enjoying him get excited about wearing his new Spiderman underwear to kindergarten. Because before I know it, he'll be leaving for college.

MAUREEN AHEARN lives in Hamburg.

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