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Broken hearts, back to school and butterflies
The Herbert boys head to the movie "Pete's Dragon" with their father, Brad, for their last Saturday before school starts. - photo by Carmen Rasmusen Herbert
Well, it happened. The day I looked forward to with equal parts eager anticipation and aching dread: three of my four boys are now in school.

My third was the first to start his preschool this year. He asked me every night for three months when it was his turn to go to school. The morning of his first day, I tiptoed into his bedroom and softly rubbed his back to wake him up.

Briggs, I whispered softly. Do you know happens today?

I go to preschool, he immediately replied, eyes closed.

He ran in to his class and proudly showed me all the toys as I dropped him off. I sat at the floor and watched his smile and enthusiasm light up the room. I knew he would be OK.

Bye, Mom! he waved happily. And my heart broke just a little.

Four days later, my oldest started second grade. He laid out his outfit the day before and made sure I knew what lunch to pack for him in his Captain America lunch box/shield (pizza Lunchables). We pulled up and I parked the car.

Do you want me to walk you to your classroom? I asked. We had already been to back-to-school night, so he was comfortable with knowing where to go, but I still wanted to offer. And I was still kind of hoping hed say yes.

Um, no, he said politely and hopped out of the car.

OK, I said and tried to hide my disappointment. Well, I love you! Have a great first day! And off he went, into the great big school all by himself. And my heart broke just a little.

One very long week later, my second oldest started kindergarten. I was the most apprehensive about him going to school. He has been my homebody. He has also expressed to me several times about being nervous to go to school every day. I have tried talking him through his fears as gently as I could, but I knew this would be a tough one.

The first day of school went pretty well. He was able to bring my husband along for the first 30 minutes, along with the rest of the class with their parents, to help transition and it was a great experience. The next day he seemed a bit more timid, but still went fine. I thought we had turned a corner.

Then day three rolled around. As we pulled into the kinder roundabout, I could see my sweet little Beckham getting emotional. Soon I heard little sniffles from the backseat. Mom?


I think Im too tired to go to school today. I think I need to stay home.

Hmm. I parked the car and motioned for him to come sit by me up front. I wrapped my arms around him as he let the tears come.

I just like being with you, he said softly.

And my heart broke just a little.

Oh, Beckham, I said, running my fingers through his curly hair. I like being with you, too. We had a good little talk and after a few minutes, one more hug and the promise of a KitKat, he was able to let me go.

The Saturday before he started school, I wanted to do something special for my boys something totally out of the ordinary. So I planned a Special Saturday of Surprises. We got the kids up early and drove down to Build-a Bear where we told the boys to build a dragon specifically Elliot from Petes Dragon. Then with their new furry friends in hand, we announced we were going to go see the new film, Petes Dragon. We ate lunch in the food court and visited some puppies at a pet store.

As we walked into the theater, all three of my boys holding their little dragons, talking about popcorn and puppies, I closed my eyes and felt my heart aching to just freeze this moment in time.

I knew come Monday, things would change for good. My boys are growing up and one by one, they are leaving the sanctuary of home and learning to become brave in a new environment.

But it has not been easy, especially when I see my sweet, sensitive little man crying because he just wants to stay with his mama.

That night my husband, Brad, and I attended a wonderful parenting conference supporting his mom, Utah's first lady Jeanette Herbert and her Uplift Utah Families initiative. The first speakers, Richard and Linda Eyre, shared a story about a caterpillar.

A young boy decided to keep the bug as a pet, and pretty soon the caterpillar built a cocoon and began its transformation. A few days went by, and soon the boy saw the cocoon moving. He could tell the caterpillar was trying to get out, and was concerned with the struggle. Thinking he would help his friend, the boy ran to get some scissors and gently cut a large hole in the base of the cocoon. The butterfly soon emerged, but looked different. Its body was large and swollen, and its wings were small. It never took flight.

After doing some research, the boys mother found out that the struggle to emerge from the cocoon is necessary for the butterfly to take shape and fly. Fluid is pushed from the body into the wings, making it strong during the difficult journey out of its safe, protective home.

I like to think I am allowing my boys to struggle so they can earn their wings. I know life will be difficult in the coming years. Just when I think my heart couldnt possibly have any more cracks in it, one of my boys comes home to tell me about someone who hurt them, and another one forms.

But I know life cant always be puppies and movies and magic and dragons. Sometimes the tears will come. Sometimes the struggle might be more than a mom can take. But I hope with all my creviced heart that through it all, they are building their wings.

I cant wait to see them fly.
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