Monday, August 12, 2019

I'm Not Ready

The kids go back to school on Thursday, and for the first time since Will started preschool nearly 11 years ago, I'm not ready.

I'm looking forward to using my brand new planner, once again following a regular schedule, and finally knowing the day of the week again. I need time during the day to write and to stay get back on top of the errands, grocery shopping, meal planning and preparation, laundry, house cleaning, and general home upkeep. And I'm excited for both kids' new schools, Will's first year of school sports, and the beginning of new soccer and dance seasons. But I don't feel ready to close the door on another summer and open the door to a new school year.

In years past, come the beginning of August I was DONE with summer vacation. I could no longer take the bickering and complaining, coordinate daily outings and educational activities, or make 174 meals a day. But this summer - with an almost-13-year-old and a 10-year-old - looked and felt different. They bickered and complained, but less. I coordinated outings and educational activities, but they helped plan and prepare, and needed less support and supervision once the outings and activities were underway. They both know their way around the kitchen, so they made all of their breakfasts, some of their lunches, and a few of their dinners.

The bottom line is that they needed me a little less - or perhaps better put, they needed me in different ways (the mental and emotional loads that accompany the tweenage years are heavy). Because of this, I had a little more left in my tank at the end of each day and have a little more left in my tank now, at the end of the summer.

The bonus bottom line - the bottom line beneath the bottom line I mentioned above - is that after this summer comes to an end on Wednesday night, I have only five more summers with Will before he graduates from high school. Five is a shockingly small number when counting down.

Growing up and growing old are privileges denied to many, and I am overwhelmingly grateful for Will's nearly 13 and Hallie's 10 years on this earth as well as the gift of loving them for every single second of those years. But there are so few summers left...and I hate that this one is nearly over.


This brings me to what I'm about to share: an edited and abbreviated version of a post that has appeared here multiple times before, always around this time of year.


During Will and Hallie's baby and toddler years, I found the commonly uttered phrase "enjoy every moment" both frustrating and disheartening.

You've been there, right?

It's 10am. You've been awake for five hours, and in that time you've fed your children three times, been thrown up on three times, cleaned smashed banana out of the cat's fur, changed four diapers, wiped pee up off the playroom floor, rescued a Power Ranger action figure from the toilet, unclogged the toilet, and mopped up the flooded bathroom. You haven't eaten, showered, gotten dressed, or even brushed your teeth.

How many of those moments did you enjoy?

Telling parents - especially new parents, whose days feel like weeks and whose nights require superhuman strength to endure - to "enjoy every moment" often comes across, no matter how well-intentioned, as cruel. These new moms and dads love their babies tremendously, but they simply aren't enjoying every moment.

And telling new parents that kids grow up so fast and time goes by so quickly? Well, those lines sound like great big lies, because in their world, the kids aren't growing up so fast and time isn't going by so quickly. If they're anything like me when I had an infant at home, new parents are wondering how it's possible their (according to the calendar) five-month-old won't head off to kindergarten in the fall because it feels like they've been caring for that baby for five years.

On Thursday Will starts seventh grade. SEVENTH GRADE. And Hallie - my BABY - starts fifth grade. FIFTH GRADE.

Holy smokes...they DO grow up so fast. Time DOES go by so quickly.

This is all quite difficult to wrap my head around, considering it seems like just yesterday I quietly stewed - and then later cried in my car - when a woman at the farmers market tousled six-month-old Will's curls and exclaimed, "what a big boy! Enjoy every moment with him!"

Where am I going with this? To be honest, I didn't know the first time I shared this post and I still don't know now, years later.

What I do know is that telling parents - of children of any age - to enjoy every moment often makes them feel worse rather than better. I know that telling new parents that kids grow up so fast or time goes by so quickly often comes off as a cliche or even a lie. And I know that while the minutes feel like hours, the hours like days, and the days like weeks when those babies are teeny tiny, at some point the clock speeds up and you can NEVER slow it back down.

Don't worry about enjoying every moment. But try to enjoy most of them, because kids DO grow up so fast and time DOES go by so quickly, whether you're ready or not.

First Days of Kindergarten

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