We all know them, the familiar phrases one hears on repeat in those fragile early months of new motherhood. Well meaning folks coming off a full night’s sleep who will smile at you in the checkout line and urge you to ‘Enjoy it; they’ll be starting Kindergarten before you know it.’ You feebly return the smile and try to pretend you aren’t clutching the bag of frozen peas to your chest to cool your chapped nipples. You stare down at the tiny creature who someone left you in charge of and think that cannot possibly be true when you are hanging on hour to hour. This is your life now, and it will never ever end. But then you wake up one day and marvel to find that little alien creature who robbed you of your sleep, your sanity, and your heart is now in fact a little person.
The moment that seemed lifetimes away back under the fluorescent lights of that late night checkout line has taken you by surprise and actually arrived.
As though it isn’t entirely obvious, I’m talking about myself. Somehow writing in third person makes it just a little easier to disassociate myself from the fact that my firstborn is starting Kindergarten exactly one month from now. And I’m neck-deep in a full-blown emotional tidal wave. I feel another swell coming as I’m writing these words, so I’ll just pour a small glass of Cab and put on an episode of Queer Eye to ride it out. Except that show leaves me ugly crying too and completely defeats the purpose. Sweet cheeses, pull it together lady…
It’s not that I wish this beautifully vivacious little boy of mine were still a baby. I don’t.
Those days were tender but rough, and frozen peas will only get you so far. What has me awake at night is that I can’t quite grasp the furious pace of it all. I find myself remembering with crushing detail too many times that I brushed off a plea for my attention to continue sweeping, finish my coffee, or (if I’m to be real) check my phone. It hurts to think about it. But deep down in moments of quiet, I realize these missed opportunities with my son are not the sum of our relationship. And I trust that his memories will be filled with all the good stuff, leaving my less than stellar moments in the footnotes.
Yet here it is, this final month looming before me.
One month where he is still almost entirely ours. One month to take a few extra minutes for one more chapter, and make pancakes on a Monday. I watch him outside bug hunting and worry if his teachers will understand just how sensitive and smart he is, and if they will encourage him to speak up and be heard. And then I chuckle and realize that most parents probably have similar, if not the same, concerns and that’s what makes Kindergarten teachers such great heroes of the world. Comforting kids is in the job description; comforting parents doesn’t come with a bonus.
One month. There are new shoes to buy, haircut needed, sharpened pencils, and a boatload of very specific items that one apparently cannot start school without. There are these last few fleeting weeks of lazy summer mornings before life changes forever. It’s such an odd thing that these childhood transitions can be so exciting and magical, but still hurt like hell. It’s here, it’s happening and we’re ready. And what I want to impart to this beautiful child everyday as he starts this new stage of his life, has already been perfectly captured by the unparalleled A. A. Milne:
“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”