Somehow, no matter how early we start the morning routines, it’s always a scramble of sorts to get all three kids up, dressed, fed, teeth brushed, and ready for school.
We often leave the house in a stressful jumble of backpacks, stuffies, toys, items for show-and-tell, water bottles, breakfast remains, signed permission forms, extra pieces of clothing (just in case), and whatever the kids are able to sneak out of the house with them. Levi’s current interest is caring for a bag of dirt he dug up from our garden and put into a Ziploc bag. A few weeks ago it was all about Thirsty, the seedling his sister Sadie pulled from a neighbor’s garden that he figured just needed water and TLC to be kept alive.
But then the front door closes, and I’ve got one or two little hands in each of mine, and we start the 5-minute walk to school. Whatever craziness we dealt with getting ready for the day seems to evaporate into the fresh air.
We take giant steps, small steps, and regular steps. We sing songs; our girls still love “Let It Go,” and so do I. The kids tell me about their favorite toys, we say good morning to neighbors getting ready for their commutes to work, and we talk. About anything, from the silly to the serious, like who they want to play with at school or what we’re going to have for dessert after dinner.
As we near the schoolyard, Levi begins his routine of welcoming everyone he knows. “Hi Theo! Good morning, Kal!”
He also greets the younger siblings of classmates, often by name and with a hug. Ella repeats his greetings to Levi's classmates, though she doesn’t know many of these older kids.
Then, one by one, we drop each kid off at his or her respective classroom. Lots of hugs good-bye, a review of which of their foods are for snack time and which are for lunch, and a special reminder to listen to their teachers. Often a tickle or pat on the head to the kids’ classmates we’ve come to know over the past couple of years.
And throughout the morning drop-off routine, I enjoy smiling at the other parents and offering them my own greetings. I ask the way-pregnant-mom how she's feeling, and remark on how big the recent new mom’s 3-week old is getting. I give a nod of recognition to the other dads I regularly see; I am certain that I’m the only gay one among us.
As I leave the building, I hear the familiar, “Hi, Levi’s daddy!” from a young boy who always makes his way into the classroom just a moment before he’d be sent to the office for being late.
Walking back to the house, I realize that I’ve got a big grin on my face. Somehow this morning ritual, such a normal everyday experience, helps keep me centered, reminding me of all that I’ve accomplished to get to this point in life where I am a dad. I'm a gay man in my late 40s dropping off my toddlers at kindergarten.
I cannot think of a better way to start my day.