It’s that inevitable time of year again. The time of year when every kid, despite when their birthday falls, ages another year. Back to School. It’s always a bittersweet time for me. I’m so proud of my children for the wonderfully kind, intelligent, and compassionate people that they are becoming, but at the same time I mourn the stages that have been left behind.
As I watch them walk into their new classrooms, another grade older, I can’t help but remember the past. The first steps, first words, and the many other milestones they’ve reached. I remember my son’s pretend friend that went with him to his first day of preschool. That “friend” stayed with him for two years until he went to Kindergarten and now has been replaced with a multitude of real friends. The boy who used to run up to give me a hug and kiss when he saw me in the halls, now gives me a quick side-hug and dashes off to join his buddies in second grade. Heaven forbid he be seen getting a kiss from Mom! And gone is the little girl who on the first day of preschool while playing on the playground, saw me standing at my classroom window, waved with a timid smile and then in tears hid under the slide. Now that sweet, BIG girl turns with a happy smile and confidently walks off to Kindergarten…without me (sob).
But all that is as it should be. They are supposed to grow and become independent. And I am supposed to let them and encourage it. But oh how I just want to scoop them up into my arms and keep them little forever. I fear the day when they no longer want to cuddle or even worse…Mom becomes uncool. These years have flown by so quickly and I know that I will be saying the same thing on their graduation days, their wedding days and every day after.
I think back-to-school is so much harder for me this year because J is away and will be for most of this school year. And it’s not just the lack of extra help with homework and after-school activities that make it hard; it’s knowing what he is missing. While I may feel like time has flown by and the kids are growing up so fast, I can’t imagine how it will appears to J. When he comes home, we will have a third and a first grader. He will have missed their entire second and kindergarten years. It will seem like overnight they went from toddlers to big kids. They are already so much more independent than when he left, how will he feel when he returns home? These are the times when it all just seems so unfair. But the one thing that I know is that the kids will always need Daddy. He will ALWAYS be cool. How could he not be? We once saw a t-shirt that read, “Who needs Superman when your Daddy is a Real Hero” and I’m pretty sure that’s how they see their Dad…a REAL hero.
As this new school year begins and the kids continue to grow into the beautiful personalities that they are, I’m reminded of a book that I bought when my son turned one called Let Me Hold You Longer by Karen Kingsbury. It’s a book that we don’t read very often because neither one of us can get to the end without crying, but it’s one that always makes me stop and slow down. The story is a great reminder about how fast kids grow up and to not only cherish the firsts in our kids’ lives, but to also savor their “lasts”. In a sense, it’s teaching us to cherish all of the moments in between “first” and “last” as well, because I know that one day all too soon, instead of watching my kids walk off toward their classrooms, I’ll be watching them drive off to college. But in that moment, as it is now, it’ll be OK and I’ll know that I have done my job. I have given them the love and encouragement to go independently out into the world without needing Mom’s constant reassuring hugs. But they will always know that I’ll be waiting with open arms anytime they might need one…