My son sat for his final exams a few weeks back. He was only allowed to physically go to school during the lockdown here to sit for the exams. Before that, it was all online.
Seeing it was the final paper, and realising it was probably going to be the last time I sent him to school, I thought I'd take a photo of him going into school that day - to commemorate the last day that he'll be attending school and the last day I will ever be sending him to school.
As I took my phone out, and as soon as he knew what I was about to do, he was all in my face asking why. Why did I need to take a photo? Why was I making such a big deal? I tried to explain, but my emotions were starting to get the better of me, so I didn't. Instead, I wished him well for his exam and told him I'd be there to pick him up later.
He didn't understand what I was going through, and I can't blame him.
This last year, whenever he did go to school, I'd take the extra time to watch him walk past the school gates and into school. I stayed just a bit longer than normal - to soak it all in. Finally, knowing it was going to be the last few times, I'll get to watch him go through those gates.
He asked me why and had thought that I was just there to make sure he went to class and not somewhere else. How could he understand that I just wanted to savour the moment. I was afraid that I'd forget these moments. I didn't want to take them for granted.
The truth is - that morning, I was emotional and was feeling all kinds of feelings. I've sent him to school almost every single day for 11 years. That morning was the final chapter of his life in this school.
Throughout his 11 years at this one school is where he's gone through so much. Had the opportunity to be taught by excellent teachers (and by some who shouldn't be teachers). He's had highs and sporadic lows. He's travelled to a few countries. He has won sports tournaments. He's had to learn things he didn't think made sense and wondered how it could possibly enrich his life in the future. Football tournaments. School projects. Not passing up school projects. Trips to the school clinic. Gotten into trouble with some teachers. Trips to the headmaster's office. It has been quite a run for him, and me.
Most of all, he's developed friendships that some of us can only dream of.
He has gone through almost half his life in that school. So many achievements. So much gained. So many memories.
I know this last year is supposed to be all about him, but I can't help but be a little selfish and say that it's going to be a big change for me too from here onwards. Leaving behind the comfort of school and venturing into the vaguely known future.
As a mom to an only child, it's the end of a chapter for me too. I have this one child, and I don't get second chances. There'll be so many things that I will be giving up and letting go, even though every bone in my body is fighting it.
So as I watch him go through the school gates and as I drive off, my heart explodes, and I can't contain the violent flood of emotions that's inside me. I drive away with unstoppable tears.
I never realised it, but him going to school gave me a sense of comfort, knowing that I had many more years with him.
We are leaving behind this chapter of his life. Both of us are. My heart breaks with the hard realisation that he will soon be slipping away from these hands that haven't come to terms with what is.
But beyond the heartache, there is so much pride for him - for all his accomplishments. He may be nervous about what lies ahead of him, but he is also excited about all the possibilities. And so am I.
I will celebrate his graduation and shout to the world of how proud I am of him. Of the person that he is. I already see glimpses of the young man that he will be, and my heart swells with so much love, pride, appreciation and gratitude. I am so very grateful for being given the opportunity to be his mother.
I know my job as a mother is never done, and he'll always be my son, and I'll always be there for him when he needs me. But I know from this day forward, he'll be needing me less and less as he braves the world and finds his own footing in it.
But in the deepest part of me, I'd like to take some time. Some time to process. Some time to heal from this pain I feel in my heart.