The boy's are back in school. Gus and Jake are happy, engaged. Life is good. Tucker. Tucker opens his eyes in the morning and says, "Please don't take me to school." or "I'm never going to school again." He wavers between these two stances; pleading and dictatorial. I banter and distract, sheparding us all through dressing and breakfast and into the car. "Just Gus and Jake are going, right Mom?" Tucker tries as I buckle him in. As much as possible, I just don't answer. I just keep moving, keep us all moving. We sing, or tell stories as we drive, infusing the air with sounds of cheerfulness. It is a willful act. I am willing Tucker to take on boyancy. His misery rises and falls.
We arrive at Gus and Jake's school. The big boys race across the sidewalk, backpacks trailing, shoe laces flicking, hair partially brushed. They disappear eagerly behind the heavy wooden doors. I drive on.
"Don't park by my school, Mom. Ok? I won't let you get me out. I'm not going. I won't let you." Parked under the high trees up the block from Tucker's school, I turn to him. His eyes are puffy, face blotchy from tears. He is so unhappy. I manage, somehow, not to collapse along with him. I sit beside him, maintain a mild expression. I allow myself not to rush. Talk of things about the day that might catch his attention. I wonder whether Chocolate, the gerbil, has chewed up the toilet paper roll we brought in the day before. I wonder whether Celia's in class yet, and what the snack will be and who will hang by his knees from the monkey bars without falling. Eventually, Tucker forgets for a moment that he's not getting out of his seat, and does. We leave the car. I carry him. Arms around my neck, legs around my waist, he molds himself to me. Chest to chest, we make our way down the sidewalk to the school. He clings to me with a sweetness that is almost unbearable, as if I were the answer. As if I were everything.
At his classroom, I peel him off, change his shoes, hand him over to his teachers. I go quickly now. I have learned that lingering only prolongs the agony. I get myself out of sight, and then I hover, listening, till the crying subsides, till he begins to forget that he doesn't want to be there and his mind starts playing over things outside of himself. Then I go back out to the car and cry all the way home. Cry because I have resisted crying so long, because I'm making my last baby learn to live without me, because I'm making him do something that hurts, making him do it because I believe that it will be good for him and that he will move through the pain into something else, something better. I cry because, what if it's not; what if he doesn't. What if I'm wrong.
At three, I collect my boys. Gus and Jake first, then Tucker. He stands from the huddle of children listening to a story, barrels down the long room, grinning from ear-to-ear, "I had a good day, Mom." Dodging around Gus who tries to intercept his embrace, he leaps up onto me. "I didn't cry, not one bit."