We began preparing for my son Moo's first day of nursery school months in advance. Anxious and excited, I called the office in the middle of the summer to ask for a list of supplies he would need. We brought him to the school for a classroom play date. We told him about all of the neat things that he would be doing in school, but that Mommy wouldn't be there, so it might be a little scary, and that's ok.

We began preparing months in advance In preparation for possible separation anxiety we went to Build-a-Bear and constructed Chicken Bear. Chicken Bear was big and strong, stuffed with extra courage so that he could help Moo be brave when Moo was a little chicken (get it?!) about being away from home. Chicken Bear could stay in school with Moo all day and come out and sit with him whenever he needed.

On the morning of the first day of school I packed Moo's backpack with a little package of tissues, his favorite train and, of course, Chicken Bear. I had cleared my morning schedule to help ease his transition into complete separation. At parent orientation, the director told us to be prepared to sit in the classroom for the first few days. We walked in to Moo's classroom to find it warm and ready to welcome him – his name on a cubby, his picture on the wall, toys set up and waiting for little hands. I looked around for a clear spot to plant myself. "Be a presence if they need you, but not an interference," they told us at orientation.

As I picked a little space in the corner, there was a tug on my skirt. Moo's shining, little face was upturned, "Gimme a kiss!" How could I refuse? And then, "Ok, bye Mommy."

Wait, what?

"You go. Bye."

"Um. Ok. I love you! Chicken bear is in your backpack if you get scared."

"K. Bye."

That was a month ago. We've had very little deviation from that routine since. A week into the school year, I asked one of Moo's teachers how often he takes out Chicken Bear. She responded, "I didn't know he had a teddy bear with him."

I am, of course, proud and thrilled that he has taken so kindly to school and the transition has been made without fear or anxiety. There is, however, a little melancholy in my pride. For three and a half years, even when I've complained about it, I've been present for, or at least well informed about, every moment of his life. I have planned and executed most every activity and meal. Moo and I have been an "us." Now, between 9:30 am and 1:30pm every weekday, Moo is a "him," and I'm a "me." As much as I enjoy my quiet cup of morning coffee and the chance to do crafting projects that don't require feathers, pom-poms, or anything by Crayola, there is a quiet voice in the back of my head always asking, "What is Moo doing right now?"

There is a little melancholy in my pride At the end of the day I am greeted with a bright grin and a tight hug around the thighs (Moo has yet to top three feet tall). I scoop up my happy, exhausted, filthy little boy and begin my inquisition as I zip him into his coat.

"What did you do today?"

"I don't know."

"Did you have a snack?"

I only get a definitive answer to this question on Animal Cracker day.

"Did you do an art project?"

"I don't know."

"What did you have for lunch?"

"I don't know."

And so on. I am left to piece together the details of his day by subtle, physical reconnaissance. Just above his right temple, a clump of hair is matted with a little speck of what appears to be play-dough. His black, velvet yarmulke is softly smudged with white, which brushes off easily – flour! He baked today. The skin of his hands is still faintly tinged yellow and green, but only to the wrists – he finger painted and wore a smock! Finally, I notice the few flecks of rice still stuck to his shirt and I know what he ate for lunch.

If I'm lucky, as the day progresses, certain details may emerge. To the casual observer, it may appear as though I am simply going on about our normal activities, but as we do all these mundane things, I am silently hoping for him to volunteer information. As always, it comes when I least expect it.

A new phase of our relationship is emerging Moo has constructed an elaborate scenario in his room – toy train tracks meander among farm animals, Winnie the Pooh figurines crowd into the Little People school bus, and a stuffed octopus supervises. He narrates the activities of each toy, his voice pitched with excitement as he gives each character a voice. Sitting in his room, I feel like I'm intruding on his fantasy. He certainly hasn't handed me a toy and given me a part. I sneak off to the kitchen to give him some privacy and get dinner started.

Twenty minutes later, Moo's door bangs open and he begins mid-sentence, "And, and, and, and, we sang the Alef, Bet, Vet song in circle time and, and, and, it was my turn and it was Eitan's turn and Daniel doesn't have a 'Mem,' in it! And on the playground there's a big red bike and I go faster and faster and faster!"

Thrilled that he's sharing, I probe for more details, and confirm that it was play-dough in his hair and he drank milk with his rice at lunch time. The melancholy washes away. A new phase of our relationship is emerging. We are having a conversation, merging the "him" and the "me" and becoming an "us," rather than just staying that way all the time. Instead of being the default, "us," is now a dialogue to achieve. It's a chance to get to know him, and myself as a mother, in a whole new way.