The Hardest Lesson

I noticed the tremble in her lips, the slight crease in her brow. The way her eyes narrowed as she looked down at the ground, fear etched across her face.

Rumbling buses. Big kids. A sea of backpacks.

She walked toward the group out front, hesitated, and turned to look back at me.  Her older brother was suddenly by her side, grabbing onto her hand. He whispered something to her and they both smiled, continuing on their journey together. The tightness in my chest softened.

Breathe. Release.

Goosebumps prickled to the surface, my heart swelled. Her bravery and the sweetness of her big brother soothed my raw, exposed nerves.  Clear-eyed, I watched them vanish behind the bricks.

Not a single tear was shed.

Until the second day of school.

“Mom!” my son said through clenched teeth. “Don’t follow us!”

He slammed the car door shut and off they went, hand in hand, rushing up the sidewalk to school. Without me.

Rush. Rush. Gone.

I sat back down in the front seat. A tear rolled down and then another, a flood out of nowhere. Sharp pangs in my heart pounded, leaving me breathless, the ache only growing stronger as I watched them disappear through the front doors.




Love’s lesson–a miraculous and beautiful burden for the rest of my days.

72 thoughts on “The Hardest Lesson

      1. Big changes in your life, DarDar. It is easy to feel overwhelmed with all that is going on. I was too overwhelmed by the beauty of your words to say more than 3 words. But I was touched.

        On the day my younger son started kindergarden, I had been awake for about 48 hours as my older son had been hospitalized for appendicitis…I didn’t know whether I was coming or going, but knew I needed a box of tissues either way…

        The only thing worse than feeling teary emotions is not feeling anything at all (been there, too) so let those tears slip down your face – just try not to do the “ugly cry” thing. In which case, we want video.

      2. I was challenged to write this without sounding too corny and melodramatic. But you know what? Being a mom IS all about being overdramatic and sappy! ha! The above is how I felt, I can’t help it. Ugly cry, indeed.

        That is terrible you had to endure your son’s surgery at the same time as the big kindergarten milestone with your other son. You must have been strung out!

  1. Love mannn… what a powerful emotion for sure.
    Be proud, seems like the kids are understanding the mega intense meaning of the word love (as you are too). Good job. The world is a better place with smart, loving children… all growing together, with us, with the world 😉

    Nope, no kids here. Not even a pet. I practice with my brother’s children. There have been a few times saying to my sister in law, “I have absolutely NO idea how much you must love your kids, if I love them this much and I’m just the Auntie!”

      1. Truly one of the sharpest tools in God’s tool box is our own children. When my kids are considerate and loving toward one another, I begin to understand the Bible verse “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

      1. Slowly but surely feeling a tiny bit better as time crawls by.

        “The Hardest Lesson” was really nicely done. I know it’s hard to fathom, but you’ll be writing it again when you drop her off at college. I’d love to tell you that you’ll cry less, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise…

      2. I can totally imagine how much I’ll cry when my son goes to college. I cried like a baby when Andy went to college at the end of Toy Story 3!

        Good to know you’re getting better, slowly but surely. Don’t do too much writing or typing now.

  2. cooper

    Some strings are harder to cut than others. The first school adventure is a big one! On the first day of school, as I drive past the corner where all the kids and Moms wait for the bus, the “first-timers” are easy to spot. Their hawk-like vigilance is palpable.
    Your post was beautifully written. Now you have time to work on your book….

    1. And to think I’m not even a first-timer! I suppose it’s because this is my last one? Either way, I was full of emotions last week. I was elated and sad at the same time.

      I will have to get back to that book someday, Cooper.

  3. John Erickson

    Bravo, dear lady, well done. You should be proud, especially of your son taking care of his little sister. Well done, indeed. 🙂

    1. You have no idea what you’re getting into. Imagine your heart ripped out over and over again and you’ll know what it’s like to be a daddy to a little girl. Good luck to you, B. Of course, it’s SOOOOOO worth every bit of it!

  4. You made me remember that bittersweet time. I just saw my 26 year old “boy” yesterday and that memory of him boarding the school bus for the first time is as fresh as the hug I got from him yesterday (he lives a few hours away from me). Sniff. Sniff.

    1. Aw! and here I was thinking it got easier? I suppose I will get used to saying goodbye over time. I might not like it sometimes, but I’ll just be sure to enjoy my kids now that they’re still here with me.

      1. My older son spent yesterday at the hospital to see if his son would be born (he chose not to make an appearance after all). I so wanted to be there for him (well, for them both). I miss my boys so much – it makes me sad that they do so well without my meddling, I mean, love and attention. How could they grow up so well and not need me? Rude. Just plain rude.

        When I see my boys now, their hugs are like a balm that my soul has needed and couldn’t get anywhere else. When I have to leave them (or they drive away from me) I cry for hours. It does not get easier.

  5. This is completely beautiful and so evocative of those feelings of joy and loss on that first day. What a perfect vision of your kids bonding together, them against the world, experienced older brother assisting scared younger sister. Perfection.

  6. Aw, Darla! Sweet kiddos holding hands. I love when they do that – melts my heart and makes me cry too. Hang in their, mama. We only have a few more years to enjoy them before they start forgetting to call us altogether. Precious, lovely times, these are.

    I wish I’d had some “emotions” with my first days, and not the frustrating what-more-could-possibly-happen kind. Maybe I’ll get to shed my tears with the first awards ceremony instead. Beautifully written post. Tugs at my strings.

    1. You had such a rough week, I understand how frustrated you must have been!

      I was quite taken aback by my crying. I had no idea it was coming. I just sat down and Bam! like a torrent of tears. I couldn’t stop. It was hard to drive away that morning.

      1. Go back and edit it, Darla. But edit it for your daughter. Then print it out, along with the pictures, and put it in your box of treasures. Should your daughter marry one day and have kids of her own, this would mean so very much to her. (Your son, too.)

  7. We teach them how to walk then we can not keep up with them. We teach them to talk then we can not get them to shut up. We teach them how to draw and then we are forced to place their drawing, artfully done at school, up on the fridge for all to see comprising her whole family complete with daddy and his tackle out. That damn picture was up there for nearly six months!

  8. PS I WILL watch your video…I just need to carve out some kid-free time or someone will be peering over my shoulder to see if I’m watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Which would be fine if your video was rated G…but I’m assuming you cuss like a sailor in this, describe your first sexual encounter and explain the use of illegal narcotics?

  9. Lovely, lovely. I happened to be at my sister MK’s house the morning she put her oldest on the school bus for the first time. It was hard for me, too and I’m just the auntie (and GodMother!). That was 20+ years ago and I still remember it clearly.

  10. Just so you know … it doesn’t get easier. Youngest started college last week and yep, I cried. Grandson starts 1st grade tomorrow and yep, Nana cried. Geez.

    I sure loved that photo; please print it off so you can see it when they’re pounding on each other or saying the words brothers and sisters say to each other in the heat of the moment. The photo will be a beautiful reminder of how good it can be.


    1. MJ, I am bracing myself for the day my son goes to college. I know I’ll be a blubbering mess. I don’t think it does get any easier. I also imagine going to my daughter’s wedding will be hard for me and especially her dad!

  11. Your picture says it all. My heart is hurting and soaring with yours, Darla – the letting go, and the joy at big brother coming through so spectacularly. It’s a tough, tough time but you’ll get through it.

  12. D Pants! You did it – and this was beautiful. So glad she has a big brother lookin’ out for her, too. I can’t wait to hear how JuJu likes school.

    And?! I missed your latest vlog! Like a jerk. I’m sorry. I should subscribe via email so I don’t miss this stuff. On the upside, now I have even more She’s a Maineiac to look forward to 🙂

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