Usually lying on the floor means something bad has happened. Did you fall? Collapse? Pass out?
For me, lying on the floor has been something of a ritual since I was a young man. It feels like change.
You see when I got my first apartment as a young man it was a major turning point in my life. There was something about the freedom, the responsibility, the space. The idea that under that roof the rules were mine to make.
Want to eat popcorn for dinner? Done. Stay up until 5 a.m. No problem. Paint the walls lime green? Whatever.
So on my first night in the new apartment, while the roommate was out at work, I lay on the floor of the kitchen.
There was something about doing something in a space where it wasn’t supposed to happen that appealed to me. Perhaps it was just an immature kid’s act of rebellion. Maybe I was just scared shitless.
The thing is, lying there, I remember feeling like the change of perspective gave me a sense of clarity. This was my first big transition as an adult, and it felt like it deserved a moment to take it all in.
Recently I was on the floor again.
My youngest daughter is absolutely affected by second child syndrome. It feels awful, but really it just a natural deescalation of the absolute terror you feel as a first-time parent.
So when the time came for her to start school, I had no anxiety whatsoever. Having a July birthday, as opposed to October for my eldest, meant she was actually four to start junior kindergarten which gave me an odd sense of relief.
She was comfortable with all the little things like putting on shoes, zipping zippers, and going to the washroom by herself. She was outgoing, articulate, and full of energy. She was set.
The morning of the first day, while trying to go over the school bus rules one last time with her, I was greeted with “Ugh, daddy, I know!”
But something happened on the way to the bus stop. Suddenly, I felt crippling anxiety overwhelm me. I’M PUTTING MY DOODLE ON A BUS WITH STRANGERS! I’M A MONSTER!
I tried to keep my composure as I led her off to the cruel world of institutionalized education, but that’s not a strong suit of mine.
Afterwards, as I contemplated the end of innocence for my youngest daughter, I remembered that night in my apartment. Later that night, while I had a few moments to myself, I lay on the floor of the upstairs hall and tried to put it all in perspective.
I haven’t had many of those moments in my life, but they seem to come at major transition points. First apartment, marriage, first pregnancy, these were the points where big things happened. So what was going on here?
I realized that having that last child in school represents the end of a major era; the one where they are no longer fully in your hands. It’s scary as hell, and at the same time liberating, knowing that you’ve gotten them to the point of being at least somewhat independent. That’s our job after all, as much as we sometimes think we’re supposed protect them from everything, by definition, we’re supposed to prepare them to face the world—without us.
Staring up at the stucco, and the poorly installed crown moulding, I was able to put this change into perspective. It was a change that I wasn’t prepared for, it hadn’t really occurred to me for months even as September approached.
The good news is, I was right about her, she is rocking school and taking it all in stride. The new routine is almost set, and the change seems manageable.
Luckily I don’t expect to be back on the floor for at least a decade. Right? RIGHT!?