It’s the witching hour of the summer. Only weeks to go and the novelty of the summertime fun is starting to wear off at the same time that school is starting to poke its way back into your life. The school year calendar arrived today, and coincidentally I also found Finn’s Back to School shopping list that arrived with his teacher assignment letter weeks ago. Just when I was starting to think fondly of the days ahead when I wouldn’t be the full time entertainment director for three kids I also got nostalgic for a time when all of our time was together time.
It’s definitely more poignant for me since Finn is the oldest. I can remember sending him off to his first day of two year old preschool at the Y. His little outfit, brand new sneakers. He had a mini backpack from Pottery Barn, a tiny one made especially for preschoolers with “Finn” spelled out on the back. I walked him in, watched him head straight for the cars happy as a clam, then walked out and bawled like a crazy person in my car for about fifteen minutes. I got over it fairly quickly and learned to cherish the little sliver of alone time. I’d pop downtown and grab coffee or shop really quickly. It was the perfect recharge time and I’d pick him up, all smiles and sleepy eyes, he’d conk out before we even got home and it was our full toddler day.
He cruised through the rest of preschool, and POOF, before I knew it, it was kindergarten time. Kindergarten? No no no. He was FOUR. Four is still a baby! He still cried when we watched the part where Nemo’s mother dies! The one Thomas the Tank Engine with the creepy face still weirded him out! How could I be sending him off to full day SCHOOL?! With a cafeteria no less? ON THE BUS! All by himself! It was hard for me. Easy for him. It was the first time I really felt, like a sucker punch to the stomach, that it really, truly, does go by so fast. I blinked and the fat little crawling baby I had was now all tall and skinny, making new friends on the bus, learning how to read, telling me his day was “Fine” like he was fifteen years old.
He also made some not so nice friends on the bus. One day he got off the bus and had clearly been crying. The bus driver explained that there was an “incident” and Finn got punched in the face. I saw red. PUNCHED in the FACE?! Someone punched my four year old in the face?? No. This can not happen. She told me who did it, and that made it even worse. This child was someone that Finn considered a friend. And he had punched him. After I assured Finn that all was well, that sometimes nice kids can do bad things, confusing things, I paced the floor of the family room. Furious. Scared. Overwhelmed. Here was my little boy, and I was sending him out into the world, on his own, into a world where you can get punched in the face by a friend. I cried. I cried because I knew I had to let go of some of the control I thought I had. I cried because I knew he was going to get punched, I knew he was going to have his feelings hurt, I knew he was going to have his heart broken, make mistakes, feel sad, be scared. And I wasn’t going to be there to hold his hand.
And every year it would be the same. I would send him off to school, all day, he would eat lunch there, not with me. The little chunk of time we had where we spent all day together, that was over. And in so many ways I wish I had taken more time to appreciate it. All those times I complained about how difficult it was to chase around a super active toddler, all those days when I NEEDED him to take a nap, all those times when I felt like if I wasn’t around other adults I would lose my mind, they’re all gone. At the same time, I don’t blame myself for not being able to savor every single moment. No matter how many times you tell yourself “Appreciate this moment”, when you’re wiping up a giant diaper explosion, or you discover a bottle of shampoo has been emptied out all over your new rug, or you’re trying to clean Sharpie off your walls, it’s okay to be like “Yep, this sucks right now”.
Mostly though, Finn going off to kindergarten served as a reminder that as a parent, you’re never a “pro”. Once you think you’ve mastered a stage, potty training, preschool, middle school, whatever stage, there’s always a new one to throw you for a loop. There’s always a new stage to feel like you’re in over your head. And even if you’ve done it before, the next child most likely won’t follow suit like the first. I sleep trained Finn, didn’t work for Lev or Jack. Potty training Lev was a breeze compared to Finn. Oh before she regressed and I had to basically re-train her. So it’s a mixed bag as a parent. You get the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the amazing, the heartbreaking. You get to be so close, and you are forced to let go. But overall, it is just the experience, the whole mix of all of it together. It isn’t being able to cherish every single solitary moment of parenting, it’s just BEING a parent. Just doing it. Getting through it some days. Having fun other days. Feeling like you rocked it some days and feeling like sitting in bed watching Bravo with a glass of wine at 4pm other days.
This year when Finn starts First Grade it’ll be a little easier, because I have already done the letting go. But just a little bit easier. And I feel for all of you moms out there sending your little ones out there into the world for the first time this year. Just don’t feel guilty for looking back and feeling like you didn’t love every single moment. Feel awesome for the moments you did love. Feel like a real parent for getting through the moments you didn’t. And if you cry at the bus stop, I won’t judge you. xoxo