She was my little side kick. We went everywhere together every day. If I went to Target, she went to Target. If I had a doctor’s appointment, she was the one collecting the sticker at the end. We were two peas in a pod, and now at six years old you can clearly see that influence. I’m sure that will change at some point, but in this season of our lives, my likes are her likes. That’s just how it is with an oldest child. With no older kids to emulate, she emulates her mama.
Yesterday she started first grade, and today is her first full day of school. We aren’t new to school. She went to a year of preschool, and she was in kindergarten last year. But those were all half days. By the time we got home from dropping her off, it was practically time to get back in the car to pick her up.
Those were baby steps into the world of school for her, and they were baby steps into the world of mothering a big kid for me. Now we are in the big time with a packed snack and a lunch and a little girl who comes home just a couple of hours before dinner time, not all that long before her daddy comes home from work.
I never expected the silence in our house. After all, I have a one year old and a three year old. By almost every measure, the six year old is the quietest and the least needy. But when we walked in the house this morning, the silence was deafening. My ears weren’t bombarded with long drawn out stories, and I didn’t have pictures and stories flung into my hands. I could walk through a door without the risk of having her fall on my head as she climbs the doorways.
It’s hard being a stay-at-home mom to little kids. It’s hard having to take an entourage to every single store and every single appointment and on every single errand. It’s hard not having a moment’s peace to yourself until 9:00 at night and then often having that peace disrupted by cries in the middle of the night. It’s hard. It’s really, really hard.
But what they don’t tell you is how hard it is when all of a sudden you have a little bit of time. When all of a sudden, you might notice three minutes of silence. And most of all, when all of a sudden you have one less person to care for during the hours of 8:30-3:00.
I had to schedule a check up for my youngest daughter. I scheduled it on a morning when my oldest will be in first grade and my middle child will be in preschool. That way I only have to corral one little child in a room too tiny for a doctor, a mama, little kids, and a stroller. But I almost started crying when I was speaking with the receptionist. This is what I had wished for. A calm doctor’s appointment. A little time to breathe. And now I’ll have it. And now I wish to give it back. Now I’ll gladly embrace the chaos and the noise and the confusion and the tears (both theirs and mine) because it would mean that they were all with me, under my wing, where I can watch them and protect them and mother them from up close.
My oldest child is six; my youngest is one. There is a fairly good chance that we will have more little babies in the future. My time as a mama to very little ones is far from over.
But yet still it’s transitioning. Slowly but surely, we are moving away from that delivery room six years ago and we are moving into a future that is unknown and a little bit scary.
And I’m reminded yet again of just how difficult motherhood is.
It’s a never ending string of bursting moments. Some of them bursting with pride, others with angst. Some with joy and some with tears. And some bring us to the brink of the unexpected. I think it’s all that bursting — all of that raw, overwhelming, unencumbered emotion that makes motherhood what it is. Raw and real and intense and alive. Heartbreaking and heart filling and heart wrenching.
We spend most of our lives planning our lives. Anticipating the future. Planning for the future. Driving our days towards destinations we plan out.
And then we have kids. And it’s not only that we are no longer the drivers, now we no longer even know exactly where we are going. All we know is where we have been and where they have taken us thus far.
Today and yesterday I have found myself grieving stages past, fearing that the future will hold heartbreak and loneliness and goodbyes. But then when I open my eyes and I look around, I see that the past is, indeed, gone. But it’s replaced by a future filled with new adventures. It’s filled with learning and excitement and sharing. It’s filled with tales of best friends. It’s filled with knock knock jokes that go nowhere and drawings of images she has seen out there in the world without me. Just as she taught me six years ago what this world is all about, now she is showing me parts of the world that I haven’t seen, or at least haven’t seen with mama eyes. Yet again, as always, she is making my world bigger, more vibrant, more real, just by being in it.
It’s different, but still, it’s beautiful. And I never would have gotten to experience this new morning had the previous mornings not faded with the night sky.
And so I find that I must learn to trust again. Learn to trust myself and learn to trust my children and learn to trust life and its ability to unfold as it must.
These days are full of leaping into waters unseen. But we know how to swim. And I believe the adventure will be worth the leap of faith.