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FieldDayAs I watched my son stand confidently, clipboard in hand, commanding the attention of 25 first graders on a chilly Field Day, I flashed back to his pre-school days. I remembered waiting with trepidation in the parent pick-up line, wondering if his name had stayed on the green traffic light, or whether it had been a “yellow day,” or – God forbid – a dreaded “red day.” On the days when sitting still during circle time and playing nicely with others had not been on his agenda, his lovely teacher, Miss Camille, would say things like, “Oh, Mrs. Cadigan, he’s going to be a great leader someday,” and I would reply, “If that’s true, he may just be president.”

My boy has always danced to the beat of his own drummer. Literally. He would often stand in the back of the pre-school room, beating his little hands on the closet door in the rhythm of Brian Adams’ “Summer of ’69,” singing all the words with perfect pitch in his three-year-old voice. This was far more entertaining than anything that could possibly happen while sitting on a carpet square. Back then, I wasn’t worried about major leadership roles. I just wanted my little man to make it to kindergarten.

A late talker and early walker, we threw the development books out the window when it came to tracking milestones for him. He would go through stretches of worrisome delays, followed by erratic development bursts. During his toddler years, we found ourselves wandering the jungle of early intervention for speech, behavior and social skills. As a result, I have always been a little more sensitive about preparing him for each stage of his life. After the school bus pulled away with my baby on it for his first day of kindergarten, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had spent five and a half years, day in and day out, preparing for that day. I cried like a baby as I watched his Spiderman backpack bounce up and down to the rhythm of his little legs climbing the bus steps. The only thing that kept me from chasing after him was knowing there were kind souls waiting at the other side; people who knew he was coming, and who were ready to greet him with a warm smile and an open mind.

Turns out, my boy aced kindergarten. The early intervention services in preschool totally paid off. By the end of first grade, he “graduated” from his occupational therapy plan, and although school isn’t his favorite thing to do, he has consistently surprised me with his ability to thrive in a well-structured environment.

Now he is about to complete the fifth grade. My “baby” stands almost as tall as I do, with man-feet two sizes larger than my own. Last week, he was one of the few in his grade selected to be an assistant for the early elementary Field Day. I watched him clearly and confidently articulate the rules of “It’s Midnight, Mr. Fox” to his sister’s first grade class. The boy who was his partner stood in his shadow, and 25 first graders clung to my son’s every word.

“Are there any questions?” he asked the class.

Twenty-five hands shot up in the air.

“Not about whether or not you can be Mr. Fox,” he said in response. There was a chuckle from him and the parents watching. A few hands went down. This kid, for whom social skills have always been a challenge, had command AND charisma.

He asked for volunteers for the game’s coveted Mr. Fox position. The twenty-five hands shot back up. He picked his sister. My heart burst with pride. Her admiring smile could have melted snow.

I don’t know whether or not he will be president (he has said he might consider it after he retires from the NBA), but it looks like Miss Camille knew a thing or two about little boys, even those who listen to the beat of their own drummer. My heart grew two sizes as I watched him on Field Day – my son, who I will send to middle school next year. Middle school scares me a lot more than kindergarten did.

I hope we have done well preparing him for what comes next. I remind myself he has repeatedly exceeded my expectations up to this point. Letting go as he grows up is hard, but I am proud of the young man my baby is changing into right before my eyes.