Amy Choate-Nielsen
Amy Choate-Nielsen's youngest child headed in to kindergarten on his first day of school.

Ah, fall. You’re on my doorstep.

I’m not sure how I feel about you anymore. I love the colors of changing leaves, I love cooler nights and fresh peaches and apples right from the tree. I love your bluebird skies that shine brighter against the hues of yellow and brown on the mountains. I love your storm clouds. I can’t wait for the rain to come clear the air.

But for the last 17 years you’ve brought me a sense of unease. And this feeling of unrest is worse when the sky is so blue and the nights are so cool, because who feels turmoil when the weather is perfect?

When falls comes, I feel like change is in the air. I feel it deep in my bones, and I’m not always sure I will like it. Spring makes me feel like anything is possible and everything is new — but fall makes me feel like it’s ending.

This fall has brought me one change already. For the first time, I have three children in the same school at the same time. Mostly, anyway. My kindergartener is still home in the mornings. Recently, I took him to the first day of school. I planned to take the moment in, to make him feel so loved, and to be there until the last second, but, true to my nature, I was running a little behind by the time we arrived.

I pulled into the parking lot, already hurried, and rushed him out of the car. We hustled up to the kindergarten door, where I saw the kids already going inside; the fanfare was over. We got to the entry and I said something like, “Good luck, I love you,” and I snapped a picture of him speed-walking away from me. I don’t think I even hugged him goodbye, just pushed him through the door and ran.

The whole thing kind of stunned me. Here was my first and last time to send my last child to kindergarten, and I blew it. I walked so fast across the parking lot I didn’t even have time to think about what was happening. Maybe he didn’t either. And then, it was over.

I missed him immediately.

He is my guy who drives me crazy when he pulls on my forearm to get my attention. He never stays in his chair during dinner, and he completely ignores me when I ask him to pick up his toys. But he’s also the guy who cuddles up to me in the morning, always greets me with a smile, and cracks jokes and gives me hugs to make me smile. He calls me his buddy. He barters for candy. He has a wonderful view of the world that is colored by rainbows and confetti, and he has a heart of gold.

I worry that his feelings will get hurt. I worry he’ll feel lost when he discovers no one loves him as much as I do, and I worry he will think kindergarten isn’t fun — because all that staying in his chair and picking up after himself is not his bailiwick.

I thought about all of this later that afternoon as I walked to the bus stop 10 minutes early to make up for my lateness dropping him off. I paced on the sidewalk, waiting for the bus to arrive. And I watched as that little 5-year-old lumbered off the steep steps, following his big brother and sister.

It turns out he wasn’t alone. He wasn’t even sad. He thought that big bus with no seat belts was pretty fun.

1 comment on this story

I don’t know if he is a total fan of kindergarten yet; school is still a big and intimidating experience. On day two, he held back tears and asked me how long it lasts (“A whole year?!” he said) but I think he’ll come around.

I can see the leaves of change starting to gather over my little boy’s head — the markings of fall. Next year at this time, as the skies turn blue and the trees turn red, my boy will be a brave first-grader who asks for chips and candy in his lunch.

Maybe it’s not an ending, but a time for growth. So let the colors come.