Your sixth birthday is in a week. I feel privileged that you still want to hold my hand, and I love that you still give me random hugs throughout the day. It seems so long ago when you were a baby and toddler, and all you wanted to do all day was be close to me.
You had your first day of kindergarten last week. I went grocery shopping by myself for the first time in over a decade. I admit that I relished the ease of walking the aisles without little ones blocking my view of the prices on the shelves, groaning about how long the trip was taking, or arguing about who would get to put the items in the cart. Then, I wandered over to the boys’ clothing department to look for some new pants for you. It took me a while to figure out that your size was no longer in the toddler and preschooler area, that I’d need to head to older boys’ area.
I felt a twinge of sadness.
After this, I noticed every mom pushing a cart with a little one in tow. Most looked the same way I’ve felt many times — tired, trying to get done as quickly as possible, dreaming of the first time shopping without a child in tow. I pleaded with them in my head to hold on to these days with their little ones at home, for all children grow up and leave eventually.
I remember the afternoons the last couple of years spent waiting for your sisters’ school bus to come, swinging with you in our hammock in the yard, wanting that moment to last forever. I relished the summers when your sisters were home from school, and now I relish the evenings and weekends when all three of you are home.
I recall thinking (when you and your sisters were little), that I’d have more time to myself when you were older and no longer needed nursing, diaper-changing, spoon-feeding, co-sleeping, and nearly round-the-clock attention. I’ve learned, for a long time now, that while the intense physical needs wane as children grow older, the emotional needs only grow stronger. And I have to be more intentional — especially with you gone to school all day long, I need to make the most of my time with you when you’re home.
My relationship with you, my last child, is changing day-by-day as you inch your way toward middle childhood. We will close the door on early childhood on your birthday in early September. I am happy that I’ve parented you in a way that I feel no regrets and can readily bring to mind happy memories. I welcome our future as mother and son. I know from my relationships with your sisters that as you grow more and more autonomous and develop your own interests, our relationship will only grow richer.
I am excited to see the person you will blossom into.
This time is different, though, as my last child begins kindergarten. I’ve pondered this all summer. I know that it’s because I am hitting a milestone in my own development as a mother. I am leaving the early childhood years, for good. I will soon be the mother of two preteens in addition to my kindergartener. I will have more time for grocery shopping alone, planting flower beds, hanging laundry on the line, reading a book, watching a movie, and all the other activities that have been limping along the past few years as I tried to make the most of my time as a mother to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.
With this added time, I will explore who I am in addition to a mother.
I will have to rediscover myself beyond motherhood to fill the hours when you and your sisters are away. It will be good step. I will need this more and more as you grow older and eventually fly out of the nest. I’m a little sad — and dare I say, scared — about closing one chapter of motherhood and beginning anew in another, but interested to see what will unfold, all the same. Just as I am watching you and your sisters grow.