He seemed quite positive this morning, though -- even eager to be off. He hovered around the front door, wearing his backpack, until it was time for us to leave. Nicholas skipped ahead, pushing Paul in the stroller; Simon hung back and held my hand, but gently, the gesture loving rather than possessive. He did not appear afraid.
We waited for several minutes, talking and laughing with the other neighbourhood children, until the bus arrived. Everyone lined up, Nicholas and Simon at the back. Then Simon put his hand once more trustingly in mine, looked up at me and asked with wide blue eyes, "You're coming on the bus with me, aren't you, mama?"
Oh. Oh. I'd thought he understood. Since our joint visit to the kindergarten classroom the previous week, when he first admitted to being afraid, I'd done my best to explain it all to him, and been pleased when he seemed to accept my words of reassurance. But now I realized he'd only heard what he wanted to hear.
"No, sweetie," I said softly. "But I'll walk you right onto the bus, and I'll wave to you when you sit down."
He said nothing. I lifted him up the first step, kissed his cheek, and let him go. The bus doors closed, and the bus drove off, with Nicholas waving enthusiastically to me from the front. I could not see Simon at all.
My little boy, always so afraid of being left behind, left alone. I've never understood where that came from -- we've never abandoned him, ever. But now I feel as though I have.
It's going to be all right, I know. He'll come home chirping with excitement about all the things he did today, or at worst he'll come back dragging his feet and grumbling, but he'll have forgotten his fear of the unknown. I know better than to shelter him too much, or take his fleeting uncertainties too seriously.
But still -- those eyes.