It is 10:45 on a Friday morning and I’m in the kitchen cutting a peach into slices. Tears slip down my cheeks and I take a deep breath. A few minutes earlier I heard a play conversation from the other room where my newly 3-year-old is playing with Lego guys.
“I really love you. I do!”
“Thanks! You’re the best!”
“You’re the best too!”
This mimics an exchange that we have countless times each day and I can’t help but feel smiley and gooey as he plays it out in his Lego family, which is comprised of several ninja. As I head to the kitchen I hear him make one of his guys ask “What are we doing today?” To which another replies, “We’re going to school!” followed by an excited gasp.
And so, as I cut the peach’s white and rosey flesh into an orange plastic bowl, tears well up in my eyes and brim over. They are tears of sadness and happiness; of confusion and uncertainty; of excitement and regret. In an hour and a half I will take my very last baby to his first day of preschool. He will stay for one hour and fifteen minutes, if he even lets me leave the room. It is barely a dent in our day, but it is an enormous event. While he will always, always be my baby, he is NOT a baby any longer. He has a place to go where I don’t belong. I am torn between anticipation for this next part of life and mourning for the life that will no longer exist.
Today I take my son to his first day of school and a bridge will be crossed that we can never go back over. Today we embark on an adventure that will have us each taking solo steps. It will be hard and it will be fun and it will change us. I worry that he is not ready, but more than that, as I tear up again, I’m trying to tell myself that I’m ready.
Tomorrow is the last day of summer. Brady is back to school the next day. My baby Declan starts preschool next Friday. Soon I will take a new freelance job and be back to work myself. It is the end of sleeping late and sipping coffee as the kids watch TV. While moms the Internet over rejoice in their children getting back to the books, I find myself sad. We spent a lot of time traveling this summer and it was nice and it was fun and it was also stressful. But the last two weeks the boys and I have been having a easy time on our own. We can do what we want when we want to. I’ve been very, um, liberal with screen time and so I’ve had some time to read and keep the apartment neat and not feel like I’m the perpetual hamster wheel.
As a mom, the school year feels much more difficult than the summer. Life becomes so much more complicated. There’s school dropoff and pickup and after-school activities and then getting dinner onto the table while helping with homework and hopefully still having time for a bath before bed sometimes. This year, in an attempt to make things easier, I’ve shifted a lot of the extras to the weekend, which means we can’t just take off as family on a Saturday afternoon.
The beginning of the school year makes me itchy with anxiety, picturing the coming days filled with obligations. The change in routine throws me. Plus, my kids will be away from me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want them all day everyday. They need to learn and explore on their own and be a part of things away from me. But while Declan is home with me, I’m his sole source of outside entertainment a lot of the time. With him used to having a constant playmate that role becomes difficult to fill. Plus he’ll be in school three half-days a week. I’m so excited for him and for me. But it’s also a reminder that my baby is no longer my baby. When Brady went to preschool I was trying to get pregnant. I soon knew I’d have a new baby. This time there will be no more babies.
I’m trying to psych myself up for leaves and sweaters and football, but when it’s 93 degrees and unbearably humid, it’s kind of hard to picture. Tomorrow we’ll try to seize the last day of freedom. I’m hoping Brady’s excitement for school and for change will rub off on me. But tonight I’m mourning the end of lazy days.
How do you feel when the kids head back to school? Do you love fall? Remind me why.