It’s happening. Today, the little guy will “graduate” from preschool. In some ways, it’s been a long time coming. This is our sixth year at this preschool between the two boys and what I know for sure is that I will not miss that tuition payment. I’ve sat in countless carpool lines, attended a number of Christmas programs and Halloween parades and Easter egg hunts. I’ve received numerous laminated lists of things about mom on Mother’s Day. I have piles of artwork and a handful of Handwriting Without Tears workbooks. I have made mom friends that have carried through to other aspects of our community life – elementary school. church, sports, neighbors. It has been a wonderful experience and I cherish the time both boys spent there (minus that tuition payment, of course).
But getting both boys in the same school, on the same bus, with the same schedule? Can’t lie. I’m desperately looking forward to it.
And yet, this week, I have been weighed down. Slow. Going through the motions. I wanted to celebrate this week. I’d finished the rough draft. I was ahead of the game. I’ve been knocking out little projects the last few days that have festered while I immersed myself in my daily writing cocoon. None of it mattered though. Come 2pm every afternoon, I find myself floundering. Bored. Lonely. Not giving the kids my all or even what feels like a significant percentage of it.
I think some of this malaise is the milestone of preschool matriculation. My baby isn’t a baby anymore. I think some of it is anxiety about the summer. The time to fill. The fights to referee. The patience to stockpile. The activities to plan. The revision work to try to do while two active boys bounce off the walls and into each other.
But what I realized today is that our family is changing. Again. We haven’t had this big of a change since B joined us to make our family of three a family of four. I am now the mom of two school aged children. It’s a subtle change, but no less important. I can in no way be considered a new mommy no matter how many new challenges present themselves on a daily basis. I am joining the ranks of PTA and sports leagues and real growing up. I’ve kept them safe and taught them their alphabet and prepared them for a world outside of our four walls. Now comes the emotional growing up that is fraught with peer pressure and real failures and stinging embarrassments and sparks of excitement and undercurrents of desires that will make my children the people they will grow into. I’ve had a toe in these waters the last three years, but somehow, sending a second child into this big, noisy elementary school world pushes me all the way in. I have no more split allegiances, no more conflicting commitments.
While I am ready for this, and even in some ways welcoming it, I am also feeling a bit unsure. My mom went back to work when my younger sister started kindergarten. In my 20s, when the future seemed simply to be a matter of making a plan and it would happen, I assumed I’d take time off from my career to have kids then go back when they were all in school just like my mom did. That’s what I knew. That seemed to work. That was a balance I felt I could achieve, manage, enjoy.
Life has a funny way of responding to plans, though, doesn’t it? I started having kids later than I thought I would (although by no means “late”) based on jobs, moves, money. Then I went back to work while B was still little. Something I never thought I’d do, but enjoyed and managed. Then that ended. So now, here I am. Back at square one with that deadline approaching at the end of summer.
The good part of going back when I did and being let go when I was is that I am much clearer on what I do want to be doing (and what I don’t). I have a direction, inspiration, goals. They aren’t the goals I was planning for eight years ago when I made the decision to stay home initially, but I’m at peace with that. So I’m curious as to why this angst seems to be creeping up as I head into this new stage of our family life. Is it the lack of a paycheck? The perception of not having a real day job? Or simply fear at no longer having any excuses? Or is it that sneaky doubt lady whispering again already?
I’m not sure I have an answer, or will any time soon. If parenting has taught me anything it’s that you can’t always be prepared for what’s ahead. Sometimes you just have to pack what you can, hope for the best and keep your eyes open for the bumps and detours that will become your greatest memories.
So if you see me this week, be a little gentle. I’m dealing with stuff. Stuff that doesn’t always have a name or an easy solution, or perhaps doesn’t have a solution at all, but just needs to be acknowledged with a head nod as you keep on walking towards your destination and understanding that wherever you are is not always where you end up and that where you end up might just be where you were supposed to go all along.
What I know for sure is that I will watch a happy, healthy, boisterous boy graduate from preschool today. Tomorrow I will greet my 8 year old off the bus from his last day of second grade officially marking the halfway point of his elementary school career. After that? Who knows for sure? There will be pool time and ice cream and probably more yelling than I want and sweat and smelly feet and movies and vacation. Through it all, we will grow into our next selves, our new school aged family, and come August, I’ll make a new plan and wait for life to laugh at it knowing that I will be prepared to see what she has in store for me next.
As long as these two precious
babies boys and their dad are by my side, however, I think it will be a wonderful journey.
Click here to read the original Rites of Passage.