It happened before. There have been plenty of mornings when we have stood on the porch looking wistfully at our son as he heads off into his future. Most of the time, however, one of us had to drive him, so the moment wasn't quite as poignant. This was the second time that he has spent the weekend at college. The waking hours, anyway. The rest of the time he was in a car traveling back and forth to Palo Alto. I was the one watching him go.
This time he was going as an eighth grader. He is now scant months from his freshman year in high school. A couple weeks back, we went to a prospective parents' night and listened to teachers and administrators talk about how they wanted every student to be prepared to go to college upon graduation. Advanced Placement, College Credits, sending kids up the road to Berkeley to take upper division classes, choosing an academy that would give them a better chance at getting into the college of their choice. It made my head spin.
A few years back, I made the joke that, as a fourth grade teacher, I would no longer be able to help my son with his homework once he was promoted to the fifth grade. Standing in the Engineering Department of his prospective high school, I watched my son's eyes light up as he sat at a drafting table. As a cartoonist, I could only imagine how straight the lines in his head were, and as an elementary school teacher, I could only wince in anticipation of the work he might be doing in the coming years. Maybe my hope for a flying car was sitting right in front of me all along.
This child. The one who still carries his Bionicle backpack to school every day. The kid who sleeps above one of the largest privately-owned collections of Lego in the continental United States. The boy who listens to the same CD of Winnie The Pooh stories he first heard when he was four. The same kid who has started talking to girls. The same child who has to be told to turn his Linkin Park down. My child. My son.
Driver's licences, dating and a thousand other tiny rites of passage await between now and the day that he pulls out of the driveway for that first day of college for real, but for now I feel the pangs and the wonder at how far we've come and how far he still has to go.