This morning, in between bites of her first-day-of-school waffle, Mary looked up and said, “If I were you I’d be really sad this morning.”
No one knows me like Mary.
This year we have one starting middle school, one starting kindergarten, and all four in school for the first time. Gulp.
I know I’m supposed to be very, very excited about this. Pop the champagne! We made it!
All four are in school and I will finally have honest-to-goodness alone time for the first time ever. This is very, very different than nap time or even preschool time. That means I can finally make all those doctor’s appointments I’ve been putting off, get my hair cut, and guess who will finally have time to catch up on her favorite Real Housewives!?!?! This is all four kids in school freedom.
I know. Excited.
This is just like everything in parenting, though. All of the feelings are a jumbled complicated mess. I’m excited for my kids, but I’m so sad for me. Childhood has so many beautiful milestones and this is a big giant one that undeniably marks the end of a season. My babies, getting on a bus — bundles of nerves and excitement — waving their sweet hands as the bus pulls away. I can’t think about it too much or the tears will come.
The years with the kids at home were really long and hard. I can’t underscore that enough. I shed tears because of how exhausted and at the end of my rope I was. They were really hard. But I can also say with complete honesty that they were some of the most beautiful and joyful years of my life.
Kids grow up, they do. It’s literally all they’re ever doing. Watching them grow up is a joy, but every now and then a milestone shows up and kicks you square in the gut. This is one of those milestones.
For a few years now (I’m a slow learner) I’ve been coming to grips with the undeniable fact that I’m not a mom of little kids anymore. We are potty-trained, out of cribs, and only use our stroller in amusement parks and airports. But until now we weren’t all in school. I still had one at home, and I was holding on to that sweetness with an iron grip. now there is no denying our membership in the big kid club. We have four lunch boxes and water bottles being zipped into backpacks, and if I count the number of logins to apps then this post will quickly unravel into a spiral of keyboard-banging expletives.
Big kid stuff.
It feels like I’m standing on a start line and finish line all at once. There is so much ahead, but I need a moment for what I just finished — 12 years at home with my kids. This is a huge shift that, honestly, feels almost as big as when I had my first child and everything changed. Give me a moment.
I’m going to be excited, I will. But only after I’m sad.
When they come home in the afternoon I’ll be SO HAPPY, and not just because they’re home (WHEW!) but because I can’t wait to hear about their days. When the bus pulls away, it’s taking them straight to new friends, learning new things, going on the playground TWO TIMES, and best of all — finding out how capable you are without your mom there to guide you. There’s a lot of joy in that. School has big challenges, too. There are long days and hard things that we haven’t even considered.
For all of it, whatever it is, at the end of the day I’ll be at the bus stop waiting with a big smile and hand to hold for the walk home.