First grade isn't any easier!

My son starts school on Tuesday.

First grade!

I thought this year would be easier.

But today I woke at 3:30 a.m., worried.

Anxiety: He’s taking the bus home from school for the first time this year and I still haven’t heard back from the bus folks to make sure he's on the schedule. (I filled out the form a tad late.)

Will the teacher know to put him on the bus? Will my boy get lost or feel scared? (We don't know his teacher's name yet! Yes, it's two business days before school starts!)

Last year, kindergarten, was such a HUGE transition — not so much for our boy, but for me. 

Though our son’s been in child care since he was 4 months old (three different day care centers in all), his graduation from preschool — a safe, insulated, hyperplayful environment — to the somehow harsher reality of public school made me panic.

I was pretty sure he’d be fine, academically and socially. But what about that huge, open-to-the-public playground with so many big kids. And what about the teachers who seemed to be less about hugs and encouragement and more about order, discipline and meeting the state's minimum standards!

Make it stop, I thought.

It’s. Going. Too. Fast.

It’s such a cliche!

But, see, I’m not the mama who loved the baby stage, who relished hours of infant snuggling and never wanted to let it go. I wanted to let it go. (My boy was not a snuggler, to tell the truth.)

No, I’ll be honest: Becoming a mother at age 33, even to a perfectly healthy child, proved surprisingly hard for me. All my peer mothers seemed (relatively) fine, meanwhile.

For me, it was “All Joy and No Fun” — for longer than I care to admit. It was “49 percent incredible pain in the ass,” “51 percent most sublime joy” I’ve ever felt.

But as my son has grown, I’ve discovered a depth of adoration I really didn’t know I was capable of.

Sure, it’s always been there, that overwhelming love for my child, the constant worry, the pain of loving someone so desperately you feel sick to your stomach.

But this is different. This is not the automatically programmed stuff. My depth of adoration, my “bond” with my son has become astronomically profound during the past few years.

Why? He’s grown so much and changed so dramatically.

He’s not only not an infant, but he’s also moved beyond the taxing toddler years, so packed with screaming demands and impossible-to-control emotions, and beyond the still-turbulent pre-K years.

He’s turned into a little grown-up, civilized, loving boy. (Yes, he’s even a bit cuddlier.) And I finally have the unbound awe, the utter infatuation for him as a human being that most mothers seem to have from birth.

But, of course, along with it, I have the feeling that it’s all slipping away, that I don’t want to waste a second.

I also feel so much more in sync with him. (Maybe I’ve just grown up, too?)

This summer, he and I had two weeks together at home (no child care, no camps). And, of course, our bond has only deepened. (Yes, I have a fresh new envy for folks with summers off.)

So now we have the first day of school coming and him taking the bus on his own.

This. Is. My. Baby!

It’s going waaaay too fast.

Kindergarten, pfft. Everyone’s expecting the kids to arrive wide-eyed and innocent.

First grade, though! Aren’t (even the institutional) gloves off now?

I have thoughts that probably many parents have before each new school year: Will he like his teacher? Will he or she “get” my son? Will my boy thrive and find all his friends (old and new)? Will everyone see how incredibly amazing, awesome, funny and totally brilliant he is? Will they love him like I do?

How could they?

Well, they can’t.

I hope he’ll carry my love with him, and his dad’s, too.

There’s a whole lot of it.