Our son, Lyric, clings to my wife’s pant leg as we enter the classroom. There are a few other children already working away on their first kindergarten assignment. It’s an easy one — just a coloring page.
After about a minute, we convince Lyric to sit down in his assigned seat. It’s his first desk on his first real school day. He eyes the assignment in front of him; it’s an outline of a boy, with the names of a few colors, corresponding to different parts of the drawing.
“Do you know what color to use for this?” I ask, pointing to the boy’s hat.
Lyric takes a quick look at the word and then flashes a quick smile.
And with that, he grabs a red crayon and gets to work.
Jess chokes back tears as we leave the classroom. We blinked — and five years passed. Our son, our baby boy, is a kindergartner.
After more than a decade working in community journalism, I’ve covered my share of first days of school. I’ve interviewed everyone from new kindergartners to graduating seniors. I’ve sat at plenty of boo-hoo breakfasts and watched as parents consoled one another. I’ve judged school speech contests and spoken at dozens of career days.
But, none of it prepared me for the reality of watching our first child start his school career. Especially when the minutia of the day he was born are preserved so accurately, so strikingly familiar, in my mind.
It was 4:30 a.m. April 26, 2008, when a panicked Jess startled me awake.
“Mike!” she gasped.
At first, I thought she had heard a burglar. We were still five-and-one-half weeks from Lyric’s due date. Surely, it couldn’t be pregnancy-related.
“I think my water broke!”
In an instant, I shot straight out of bed and into a pair of shorts, socks and shoes. I’m not sure my feet ever hit the carpet.
“OK! OK! OK! OK-OK-OK-OK!” I stuttered, flipping on every light switch I could find. I grabbed my phone to call our doctor and paced wildly around the house to shrug off the slumber.
The roads were empty on the way to the hospital. We were whisked from the emergency room to the delivery wing and, after a quick phone call to our doctor, the nurse turned to us.
“Hear that?” she asked. “You’re going to have this baby today!”
Two hours later, at 6:47 a.m. April 26, 2008, we welcomed Lyric David Eng into the world. At 5 pounds, 10 ounces, and 19 inches long, he was a tiny thing. But, with strong lungs and a determined spirit, he made it out of the special-care nursery in record time.
Five years ago, we felt incredibly unprepared. We learned as we went — how to swaddle, how to wash bottles, how to best wrap-up a dirty diaper. From day one, he has taught us how to be parents. Jess and I flew by our pants seats the entire time, exhausted, amazed.
We blinked, and here we are, with a 5-year-old genius, who, at just 18 months old, knew the planets in order of distance from the sun. This summer, we began teaching him addition, subtraction and even multiplication. Lyric loves monkeys, the color orange and, of course, Angry Birds. He wants to play the tuba, because it’s the largest instrument he’s ever seen, and he wants to travel to Washington State, simply because it is so far away.
And today, we now understand why he came bounding into this world so early. In doing so, he gave us five-and-one-half more weeks with him, before we sat him at his desk on his first day of school.