All across our beautiful coast, pencils are being sharpened, papers are coming home to be signed, buses are chugging and lunchables are flying off the shelf. It’s that time again. Schools are open and moms rejoice! Or do we?
More than ever, I realize that Father Time waits for no one! Hence, the conundrum. You see, as parents, especially moms, we love the fact that summer is over and there is routine again. We love that there is a bit of free time to run errands or read a book, get to work on time, clean and organize, maybe have lunch with a friend or go to the gym… I’ll stop there. You get the point. But as this “light of day” begins to shine on mothers everywhere, there are others who, despite liking structure again, are facing big changes and are having a slightly different reaction or two. Maybe sadness and a sense of loss as she sends her baby off to the first day of kindergarten. Or anxiousness and uneasiness with clenched fists watching her tiny 6th grader go in to face the big kids of middle school. And of course the ace of all… the no-longer-senior that she just left behind on a college campus with one eye on the road and the other in the rear view mirror hoping for that last glance or two…that’s when it gets real!
But despite this plethora of emotions floating around, the one constant is the heart of a mom. It doesn’t change. It may get less anxious when it’s the 2nd or 3rd but still, it doesn’t change. She’s the one who waits on the edge of the pool with one toe in the water ready to jump in, even after you have learned to swim. She’s the one who is so happy you are dating someone who seems like a “good kid” but is slightly jealous they are taking so much of your time. By the way, she will also be the one to help pick up the pieces of your broken heart. She’s the same one who is so thrilled you passed your driver’s test but every single morning as you leave, she hugs you and says “be careful”…like she would ever say, “Why don’t you just drive reckless today! Go wild and have fun!” Somehow there is a simple peace that comforts her to just say it. She’s the one who even though you are 17 years old and a senior and can make your own breakfast, still gets up at 5:30 to do it for you, just for a few special moments together. She’s the same one who fusses when you wear her favorite shirt but ends up giving it to you anyway. She is still the one who blows up balloons at the crack of dawn to float along your ceiling so that when you wake up, your birthday is as colorful and beautiful as you!
The mom’s heart! And it occurred to me, having a senior this year as well as a tiny 6th grader, that there is a long, sad growing list of “no mores.” No more paper plate ornaments or painted CDs to add to the Christmas tree. No more Blue Corn Festivals or book fairs, no more musicals to watch, no more field days...
Recently a friend of mine posted a first-day-of-school photo of her son who is now a senior. She had it side by side with a photo from his first day of kindergarten. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the oversized laminated car pinned to his shirt. I remembered that of my own except we had the big bus. It made me sad also, because it made the “no more” list. I will no longer have another kindergartner to pin a bus on. My heart broke as I thought about the moms who know well how long that list will get, as she just became an empty nester or maybe just sent her firstborn off to college. Either way, it stings the heart. She is not thinking about routine and structure right now but rather wishing she still had a little one to pick up at the bus stop or a teenager to argue with about what he believes are his personal rights now that he is a big senior. She wishes her daughter were there to steal her favorite shirt. I heard one friend say about her oldest that she will miss hearing the sounds of his routine. From her bedroom below, she could hear his footsteps across the ceiling…the water running, the brushing of teeth, the toilet flushing…the sound that he is home. The thought of her sadness and void that she feels is unmistakably a rite of passage for both, but regardless, even though he will be back, he is no longer simply upstairs nor will he be home for dinner on weeknights. And then there are the moms who just sent off her last, the baby. Somehow, getting up at the crack of dawn to scramble an egg for your hubby doesn’t have the same sweet pleasure. Quietness. Too quiet! Gone are the days of dirty clothes and shoes left on the floor and dishes in the sink…another “no more” addition. Oh, and the pantry stays full now. She wishes it weren’t. The moms that still have a full house dream of those quiet moments… while others would give anything to have the noise back. Yet another friend she said this: “It is painful but brings beautiful growth for them and for us. You will find yourself stepping into their empty room just to ‘feel’ them. But each stage brings its own joy.”
I write all of this to say, as much as we get frustrated with them, need time to ourselves, get tired of a dirty house with empty chip bags everywhere or even feel like we as moms have lost ourselves…it happens that fast! They are born and they are gone and on their own. For some reason, I can think back on holidays or events that were years ago and remember the smells, the conversations, what I wore, what they wore, what we ate…just like it was yesterday. But ask me what I had for breakfast this morning and I will struggle. I think it’s because we long to file away and desperately remember details that grip our heart because we know how fleeting these moments are and will soon be added to the ever-growing list of “no more.” Our babies are here one day and they are gone the next. So…as much as I would love to say I have an answer or a point to all of this, I really don’t…other than be present, seize every moment, recognize in the rough patches that these ARE seasons that will be gone all too quickly and embrace each stage. I’ve already broken the news to my senior that I am riding shotgun with him this year and to hang on for the ride! I only meant that I wanted to take in every minute of his last school year but I think he is worried that I might make him take me as his date to Homecoming. I’m going to let him sweat that one out for a bit. But I want to remember it all ...each of his eventful or even non-eventful moments as a senior because I know that even though it’s only the beginning of the school year, May will be here before you know it, a diploma will be handed to him, and off he’ll go… just like that!