As the leaves are shifting colors and the millenials are rushing to grab their long-awaited pumpkin spice lattes, I’m passing into a new season that’s eliciting emotions as variegated as the shades of fall.
I’m now a school mom. My kids are going to school. One in kindergarten, one in preschool, which means that for six hours out of the week, there are no children in my home.
That’s cause for celebration, you might think, and you’d be right. Not just for me, gaining valuable “time for myself,” but for my sons, who are growing in knowledge and facing constructive challenges and discovering more of this big, beautiful world God created. I’m excited for them, excited to see how they will flourish in these new adventures, and excited for me to be able to go grocery shopping and not have it be an adventure.
But honestly, I’m also sad. My season of motherhood is changing. Six hours without children means I’m mothering less. That’s not to say that a mom who works full-time outside the home or a SAHM with all school-aged children is any less of a mom – their children are continuously present in their minds and hearts and daily activities. They’re just in a different season or situation.
As my oldest stepped foot inside his kindergarten classroom, I crossed a threshold of another kind, entering the school phase, starting to leave the early childhood phase.
I’ll miss this phase – the getting down on the floor building train tracks, shaping Play-Doh cuisine, reading and snuggling on the couch, soothing hurts with kisses and tickle fights phase. It is a time when – to my ever-living vexation, as well as my gratification – my kids were almost always with me, and needed me for so many different things. It is a role I longed for, for so long, and finally got to experience, and enjoyed immensely.
That’s why, when I waved goodbye to my son and stepped foot outside his kindergarten classroom, I let the tears loose and marveled at how five years passed by in a blink of milestones, building upon one another, leading to greater possibilities.
It is the beginning of something new; the closing of a chapter of something precious.
I took my youngest to toddler story time at the library the other day. Yea, I know. Potential big mistake. Spending time with younger mothers, or at least, mothers with younger kids, might be a painful reminder of what once was – their tiny scampering tots and snappy strapped baby carriers and swelling belly bumps a blatant, flashing signal: THIS IS NOT YOUR WORLD ANYMORE.
I smile at them. I watch their little ones waddle around, fall down, cry.
I remember those days, caring for two 2 and unders. They were hard. I was exhausted all the time, frazzled half the time, probably legitimately semi-crazy.
I’m glad I’m not currently in that season. I loved my babies when they were babies, but I don’t need them to be babies anymore. I don’t need to turn back time. Getting past spit-up and tantrums and potty training is a blessed thing.
Why, then, do I feel this twinge of sadness knowing all that is behind me? I see these other sweet mamas, scooping up their children and cradling them at the hip, and my heart bursts with thankfulness for my own children – that, and a sort of wistfulness for the times I used to scoop them up and cradle them.
This amalgam of emotions is hard to explain. The best comparison I can come up with is perhaps a woeful commentary on what we all now hold dear: our own entertainment. Imagine Netflix (because network TV is mostly terrible) just announced it is still airing your favorite show, but with four fewer episodes. You’d be bummed, right? This means you’ll have less pre-prison flashbacks, alleyway fight scenes, and stranger things to savor. Your enjoyment has been diminished.
There’s another way to think about it. I have several female friends who are amazing craftswomen. They create exquisite works of art with ink, with thread, with wood, with both inert and organic materials. They pour their love and lifeblood into their designs – you can tell – and in doing so, bring pleasure and beauty to those around them.
Being a hands-on mom of young children is like that for me. It’s where I thrive. I have hobbies and other creative pursuits – writing being one of them – but this mothering gig is my favorite. Of course I’m not perfect. That’s not the point. It’s simply something I enjoy. One of the best things in the world for me is making my kids laugh, and laughing with them.
God gave me this gift of motherhood, and I have relished it.
I have a list of approximately 142 topics I want to blog about, and this isn’t one of them.
I don’t know why I’m writing this jumble of words. Usually, I have some type of higher purpose for writing and sharing personal reflections beyond mere emotional appeasement.
Certainly, it’s not to make other mothers who disliked the early childhood phase feel bad about themselves. We all have ages and stages that aren’t our cup of tea. Middle schoolers scare the crap out of me.
Perhaps it’s to encourage young mamas to “cherish every moment.” *Gag* No, that’s not it.
Or it’s to warn others about idolizing their children and seeking satisfaction in ways that only their Savior can fulfill. Oh wait. Been there; done that; felt the regrets; blogged about it.
Lacking a solid concept, I go to the all-wise Internet for guidance. I find a reassuring article by Jen Wilkin talking about the back to school blues and Christian mommy guilt – that is, the tension a mother feels as she questions if she loves Jesus as much as she loves her kids. She explains that although we might view love as limited and quantifiable – like a “cosmic batch of heart-shaped cookies” – our love for our kids can express our love for Christ; we take the cookies He gave us and give them to our kids, which, ultimately, gives the cookies back to Him.
That’s a lotta cookies and a lotta love. I like the sound of that. Maybe that’s my point.
Besides that part of me that wants to turn this into a moralizing mommy lecture, there’s the part that wants to slap myself upside the head and shout “Pull yourself together, woman! This is not a Bachelorette breakup-level crisis! It’s not like your boys are going off to college yet.” (As a word of advice, do not read Jen Hatmaker’s Facebook post describing when she dropped off her oldest son at college. Just don’t. It’ll destroy you. Same goes with the Nicole Nordeman slow-the-heck-down-time song.)
Really, this is not a crisis; it is a process. We are transition-ing, adjust-ing.
My boys are adjusting to the lengthened time apart from one another, and figuring out how to manage their divergent strategies for coping with that separation (wrestling vs. talking). I’m adjusting to having a modicum of peace and quiet. My husband is adjusting to me having a modicum of peace and quiet during which I plan new cleaning and organization projects for us to work on.
As the four of us continue adjusting and learning and growing individually and together through this new school phase, I look forward to seeing how God continues writing our family story. I anticipate discovering what my kids will learn in school, who they will love and marry, how they will bring light and goodness to the world around them.
Through all of that learning and loving and light-bringing, I will thank Him for giving me this family and for making me a mom. And as I thank Him, I will fondly, gradually bid farewell to those early childhood days and a season of life I will treasure forever.