Yesterday morning, I took my girls back-to-school. I know that I should be rejoicing. I thought I might be. This summer has been very busy and trying but instead, I was sad. Sad that another summer is gone and there are so few left before they go off to college. When they are babies and toddlers, each day feels like 72 hours but these years now pass more quickly than I prefer.
The girls are growing up so fast. They are no longer the two little mop top toddlers who I chased with a brush while putting pigtails into their hair. They no longer mismatch their clothes or put shoes on wrong feet. No they are up before me every morning, dressed and waiting for me to curl or straighten their hair while they change earrings and strategically place rainbow loom bracelets up their arms. Suddenly, there are lockers and acceptable and unacceptable types of belts and socks.
They both got back-to-school haircuts and all I can think is where did my children go? I am so proud of the young ladies they are becoming but pump the brakes. I’m still the mom of single digit children, for one more year anyways. I can’t believe I’ve been a mom for almost a decade already. I really am trying to be “cool” and give them space to spread their budding wings but they are still my baby birds and when I see panic, pain or fear it’s my instinct to swoop in and make it all better.
The girls are now 9 and 7, so we don’t have to worry about the dreaded first day of preschool and kindergarten. Those days nearly broke my mommy heart in half. Again this morning, moms were dropping like flies in the kindergarten corridor; collapsing into pools of snot and tears just outside of the doorways. I kept a stiff upper lip and pushed their limp bodies aside as I took my girls to the more “dignified” end of the hallway to second grade. Not really, by second grade we’ve just learned to wear huge sunglasses and wait until we are safely back in the car before we have our breakdown.
My 4th grader, while she still wants me to walk her to class, under the guise of being her Clorox wipe and paper towel pack mule, gives me a hug and dismisses me in front of everyone. She has always been the stiff upper lip kid, since preschool. She’ll get watery eyes and a bit of a lip quiver and then she will give me that hug, you know the one that needs to last both of us the entire day, and then she will send me off. Even if she wants to run off after me crying for me to take her home, she will not make waves. She will make do. She gets that from me. It’s awesome, except for when I wish she’d just let go and not stiff upper lip it. I want her to know that she doesn’t always have to be the stoic one and that’s what I am here for; her safe place to land, to carry her when she is too weary to walk and to always, always hold her hand.
My 2nd grader however, well, she is a rage against the night, do not go gently, make waves, cry and freak out type. She knows how to make a mama feel needed but she is also my high maintenance, squeaky wheel. This morning, she tried a bit of stiff upper lip on for size. I don’t think it suited her because just before I walked her into her class, she said, “ Mama, my stomach hurts.” This is her go to ailment whenever she is afraid or nervous. While I was unloading her supplies (pack mule) I asked the teacher where to put the supplies. When he answered that the kids were supposed to read the board and follow the directions, I saw the panic and freak strike the heart of my youngest baby bird. She reads but she’s not a “great” reader yet and there were a lot of unrecognizable words on that board so I explained the instructions to her and helped her to put her little heart at ease. I could see that she wanted to cry but instead she unsurely said, “Okay, mommy.”
It was time to leave. I could feel her willing me to stay. I could feel my heart being tugged back in her direction. I hugged her and she reciprocated tightly. I assured her that she would be fine and that it was going to be an awesome first day; all while willing those damn watery eyes of my own to stay behind the sunglasses and not reveal themselves to my girl. She gave me a big kiss and whispered, “Mommy, I’m scared!” I looked her in the eye and told her that there was nothing to be afraid of and that I was only a phone call away and more importantly, that I loved her. That seemed to put her at ease and then I left, as she stared a hole into the back of my head; turning back to catch one last unsure smile. Then I walked out of the room.
2 minutes later, I walked back to the doorway to see if she was okay. She was sharpening pencils when she caught a glimpse of me. She ran to me and gave me a kiss and told me she loved me. This time much more enthusiastically. I told her, “See, if you need me, I’m only a phone call away!” And she smiled and dismissed me.
I left my second grader in her new class and before I even left the school building, my heart was heavy with all the feelings; the missing, the growing up and the letting go. I freaking hate the letting go.