Every day I wake up while it's still dark out and I put on a pot of coffee, open up the curtains and start the same routine.
I wake up my daughter, not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, and begin the arduous task of easing her into the day.
She's in middle school now, so it's the first year she and her little brother have been apart. She's in sixth grade; he's in second. Always before, mornings have been a raucous affair, with the two of them arguing and wrestling on the couch while I tried to maintain order, but this year, things are different.
Now Katie eats her breakfast of plain bread and milk - her choice, I swear - and I brush her hair while she gathers her things. We walk together out to the bus stop while she chats about her upcoming day. I'm the only mom out there, but she wants me to come, she says, wants me to wait with her. When the bus comes, she goes to the first seat, right behind the driver. She's never ridden a school bus before. She waves to me from the window, so I force myself to look happy, even though I miss her already. But I wave enthusiastically, and do a little dance on the sidewalk sometimes. She laughs.
Then I go home and wake up my son. A second grader, Sean is a bundle of boundless energy. Before he's even out of bed, he's full of questions. They're usually about football or NASCAR - I usually can't answer them, but he tries to be patient. "Mom, he says. "Try to learn!" I pack his lunch and a snack, and we head out to his elementary school, right across the street.
When he was in kindergarten, I walked him into his classroom. I hung up his coat, and I put away his folder, and I walked him to his seat and gave him a kiss. In first grade, he let me walk him to the door. Now, I can only hold his hand until we turn the corner of the building. He surreptitiously, and kindly, eases his hand from mine. "You don't need to walk me in," he informed me after the first week. "But I want to," I insisted. He turned back and looked at me waiting eagerly at the door. "No." he said firmly. "I'm fine." He gave my hand a pat and walked down the hall.
Just a few more years of them both being little - that's all I want. But that's not going to happen. So I smile and wave and do a little dance for him on the sidewalk. He laughs.