Bittersweet Back to School

It is August and my oldest is finishing her first week as a second grader. My middle child will be returning to pre-school for his last year before kindergarten and his little sister is beginning her pre-school career. And, as is becoming my new back-to-school routine, I have spent much of the past few weeks lost in thought. May and August have become my months to get surprisingly weepy and reflective. Both the opening and closing of a school year seem like such significant milestones. But it is a bittersweet time for moms. If we are honest with ourselves, it is a painful reminder that if we do our job well...we are raising them to leave us.

I know. This sounds pathetic. I'm really not that mom though - at least, I don't think I am. I survive the bulk of the year without too much "needy-mom" syndrome - very content to have some "me" time and appreciative of the few hours each week when my precious kiddos are pursuing higher learning (or just practicing their shapes and colors...whatever...it is all relative). But I am sentimental. I am also so grateful to have been given this role and I am painfully aware that it will eventually end. These emotions can create a somewhat volatile combination when marked by the bookends of the school-year. Especially in years of significant transition in the lives of any of our kids. A friend was speaking of her own struggle the other day - as three of her four children will be in school full time this fall - and she described it as feeling like the end of an era...something I have dwelt upon recently as well. Although this year, it isn't instigated by some great transition my children are making. They are in the same schools that they were in last year and things are proceeding as usual. But what has suddenly crept up, is the realization that
I have already left a season of motherhood...and I didn't even know it had happened.

Somehow, I am no longer a young mom with very small children. I know...gasp! Ok, so that may not be extremely shocking to anyone reading this, but it honestly still surprises me. Where did the years go? Yes, I do still have young children. And with our adoptions currently in-process, there is a high probability that I will have little ones for quite some time. But life is very different now. I no longer spend most of my day at home with babies - excitedly awaiting my playgroup time, so that I will have the incentive to take a shower and the opportunity to interact with other adults. We don't stay in our pajamas until the late hours of the morning while we watch PBS and play. We don't leisurely run errands simply to have something to do. It is a different season now. After delivering my oldest to school early each day, we are still home for a good portion of the morning because I try to be for my younger kids, but not nearly as much as I once was. I look back at old videos and cannot believe the patience in my voice as I coo to my first-born. Where did that kind and loving woman go? Actually, where did the video camera go? Now, the pace is frantic...and I know that we are just at the beginning. I observe the schedules and logistics of friends with older children...and I shudder. But even now, in our early days with "big kids," we already spend our afternoons in the car shuttling to and from activities, our weeknights are basically consumed - and we are desperately clinging to the very small bit of a weekend that we have left. It is different now. We have begun a new era.

I suppose what frightens me most, is that this new season snuck up on me. I was the young mom with a toddler and a baby...and suddenly, my kids are 7, 5 and 2 and I'm wondering what happened to that precious time? When I was in those early years of motherhood, I thought it was so difficult and I felt so busy. And it is a hard season - the lack of sleep, feeding schedules, meeting the every physical need of infants and young toddlers. But you don't know what you don't know and now, I find myself longing for those days. There were challenges, but the calendar was simple and life felt more balanced and less frazzled. Caring for the physical needs of my children was much less stressful than shepherding their hearts. The next phase is always more difficult and full of more challenges than we anticipate. I guess the lesson here is contentment...an area in which I always struggle. Do not long for the next stage - be content in the day.

So, this August, I am once again lost in thought as I reflect on this surprising new place at which I have arrived. It has been an emotional week as I wrestle with my evolving role as a mother. I find this to be one of the greatest challenges of motherhood - once you finally feel competent and comfortable with kids of a certain age, they grow up - and everything changes. August is full of hope and excitement for my terribly bored children and there is an aspect of "new beginnings" that I do find enticing. My kids are ready for a new school year and I am thrilled to walk with them as they learn and discover amazing things...but my heart still feels a little broken for those precious early years of motherhood that I didn't realize were already gone.

1 comment:

myfourgems said...

Oh Tiffany, you wrote exact thoughts of mine through the last 3 years or so....

I look with nostalgia now, on sunday mornings, at the beautiful 20-something mom's coming up from the basement with their precious, well-coiffed 2 year old and a sweet baby in their arms or tummies, with a fresh, designer diaper bag slung on their shoulders and wistfully remember what a sweet time of life that was. So precious and gone too quickly.

You are so right that caring for the physical needs, though tiring in its own right, is small potatoes compared to the growing realization of shepharding the hearts of little people!

I think it was just about this same time for me...my oldest being in 2nd gr and my littlest one about 2, that I too recognized that this transition had snuck up on me and I've struggled ever since trying to find my confidence as a mom in my role of shepharding rather than just wiping :)

Loved reading your thoughts. Lets plan a coffee soon.