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The iPhone alarm began to chime, but he was already awake staring at the ceiling for at least thirty minutes. Sighing, he swung his legs out of bed and made his way to the shower, just hopping in briefly to wake himself up and give a quick scrub.
Upon exiting, he heard Grant open his door and walk in the bedroom, asking “Dad when are we leaving for school?”
Leaving the bathroom with a towel on and grabbing some briefs and shorts out of the dresser, he replied “Not for about an hour buddy. Are you excited for your first day?”
Grant shrugged “Oh sure I am. Can we watch Nature Cat?”
“Yeah, we can watch Nature Cat. Let’s head downstairs. Waffles or eggs for breakfast?
Grant led the charge to the staircase, while chanting “Scrambled eggs! Scrambled eggs! Scrambled eggs!” as he disappeared around the corner and down the stairs.
Thank God, didn’t want to make waffle mix anyways.
As the pan heated and the eggs were beat, he reflected on his difference in mood on the morning of the first day of school this year vs. his mood last year. He’d spent the first morning in a panic announcing his checklist out-loud, worrying over every detail.
On this morning, Grant’s perfectly packed backpack was propped against the wall by the door. His lunch had been made the night before and was in the fridge. After last year’s mishap, he would be not be leaving it behind again.
Grant’s Great Hills Academy polo & khaki shorts had been ironed the night before and laid out, along with his new shoes and socks. Scraping Grant’s eggs on a plate, he started to worry that he was almost too relaxed and confident in how good this morning was going to go.
Considering he’d already met and had a decent rapport with Grant’s teacher, Mrs. Winters, he wasn’t terribly worried about making the ideal first impression like he had been the year before. Grant’s stuff was packed and good to go, and there wasn’t much else he had to do to impress at first drop off.
The entire class, parents and students alike, had been briefed on drop-off and parking lot procedure at the Ice Cream Social a few weeks prior, so there was no tentativeness when it came to the “Where do I go?” and “What do I do?” questions once he pulled in the parking lot.
Nature Cat wrapped up about the same time Grant finished his breakfast. They ran through their morning routine of brushing teeth and getting dressed. Grant had difficulty corralling his excitement for the first day. While brushing his teeth, he became overenthusiastic and sent his toothbrush careening down the outside of his cheek, getting toothpaste everywhere, and ended up with two legs in the same leg hole of his shorts while getting dressed.
He couldn’t blame the kid. After all, he wasn’t too far removed from childhood to remember how exciting the first day of school was.
Around 7:40, he loaded Grant, his backpack, and especially his lunch, into the car and pulled out of the driveway to begin the twenty-minute drive over to Great Hills.
Grant made his usual request of “You’re Welcome” from the Moana soundtrack, then leaned back in his carseat and said nothing, leaving his father to be alone with his thoughts on the drive.
His eyes glanced to the mirror every so often to observe his child smiling silently while listening to the music. It was hard to fathom that this growing boy, who could (somewhat) dress himself, carry on a (usually ridiculous) conversation, and generally fend for himself around the house, had grown this fast. Where now sat a vivacious little boy once sat a tiny baby. Shooting his eyes toward the mirror to look at Grant more frequently as the drive continued, he couldn’t believe that this little boy was the same baby that he’d rocked and paced with for hours on end in the middle of the night by himself.
No more pre-K; he was a full-time student from now until hopefully he was 22 or 23. Since Grant’s birth, he’d often said something along the lines of “Wow I can’t wait for him to get to school full-time.” Admittedly, settling into the five day school-week routine was going to make a lot of things easier. No more shuttling in-between daycare or his grandparents’ house for daily care, and no unforeseen days when a child care option suddenly has to cancel.
But as he flicked his blinker to turn onto the winding road that took them to the school’s sprawling campus, he realized that entering Grant’s prime schooling years meant the end of many other eras. No more weekdays that he decided to start work late so they could hang on the couch to watch TV together and have a leisurely breakfast. No more mornings outside watering the lawn while Grant played in the sandbox before heading off to daycare.
It was impossible to ignore the lump in his throat. His son was growing up. Grant’s first day of primary school checked another box off a long list of firsts that all led to him getting farther and farther from the little boy who liked to hang out with his father.
They pulled up in the carpool line stopping at a spot right in front of the majestic iron gate that displayed the Great Hills logo. “That thing probably cost more than every piece of furniture in my house,” he thought as he opened his car door to swing around and get Grant out of his carseat.
He opened the backseat to find Grant already out of the chest clip and attempting to undo the bottom clip. He popped it out for him and swung him out of the car and hugged him before setting him down on the ground
Grant held his arms out as his father put his backpack on him and then handed him his lunch. The pair locked hands and walked to the gate where Mrs. Megan was waiting for them. She flashed her trademark smile and told Grant, “We’re so excited to have you for your first day!” as they passed.
With their hands still together, he could feel Grant gripping tightly in excitement and skipping toward the building that housed his classroom. Upon seeing Mrs. Winters, Grant began to wave maniacally and tugged on his father’s hand imploring him to walk faster.
They reached the door and were greeted by a warm “Good morning, happy first day of school” from Mrs. Winters.
He got in a squat position to get eye-to-eye with Grant.
“Okay bud, you got your backpack?”
Grant tugged his straps, “Yep!”
“Got your lunch?”
He swung his arm up with his lunchbox, “Yep!”
“Okay, be good, have fun. I love you Grant.”
Grant opened his arms and gave him a big hug, “I love you too Daddy.”
Then he turned and jogged into the classroom. Mrs. Winters gave him a smile then closed the door.
He watched Grant for a moment through the glass pane. He put his backpack and lunch up clumsily in a cubby, then walked tentatively over to a table with a few other children and began to speak.
Turning to walk back to his car, he found himself trying to blink away what felt like dust in his eye. He shot Mrs. Megan a smile, then climbed in his driver’s side door. Wiping his eyes, he pulled up his phone and took a few seconds longer than usual look at the picture of Grant that adorned his lock screen. He then punched in his passcode and muttered to himself, “Alright, let’s find a tee time.” .
If you’re enjoying following “PostGrad Single Dad,” be sure to go listen to the latest episode of “The DadGum Podcast,” live on Grandex Labs.
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