In the kitchen

Search This Blog

Thursday, September 5, 2013

first day of school

And then the time for backpacks, new sneakers, packed school supplies and all my brain power devoted to thinking up creative things to serve for lunch was upon us...
You know this story.  It is has been this way for parents for thousands of years.  Way back when it was probably more like:
 Honey, you are ready to go off and hunt for food.  Watch out for those red berries- the dark ones are poisonous and the light ones I can pound down to spread on raw meat so be sure to get the light colored ones.  The medium ones will strike you dead the second you touch them so beware of those.  If you see a mammoth coming for you, hide behind the closest rock and tuck your naked body in a ball.  If it is anything smaller than a mammoth, try to kill it with the slingshot I've packed for you.  It is right next to that drumstick in your burlap sack. Beware of insects and chaff with that loin cloth and try not to get it too dirty since it is brand new.
But all these eons later, it is really the same story.  We just have less danger and Land's End, LLBean and Target to make life easier.   Yet for a mom sending her kids back out into the world, one officially for the first time, it feels the same as it has for moms through the ages.
I hope people are good to you.  I hope you know that I love you even though I am sending you away today.  I hope you are good to others and can be the person we have raised you to be.  I hope you are happy while you're there and not missing home too much.  I hope you feel confident and sure and now how marvelous you are (but not too much since arrogance is obnoxious).  I hope you say please and thank you and listen well and learn lots and do what you went to school to do.  I hope that whatever makes your heart soar or break today you will tell me all about it when you get home.
For anyone that doesn't have kids I'm sure this seems 50 flavors of ridiculous.  But when it has been your job, your life's work for many years to care for your children, it is hard to turn them over to someone else.  I confess it is easier with Ella since she is accustomed to school and I can see her need for a broader horizon.   Maya is my baby, however, and it is very weird to send her to the big school and not have her home with me some of the time. 
There is something excruciating about knowing that neither of my kids will ever be home full-time again and that there circle of influence is widening each year.  I cannot adequately use words to describe this unique brand of sadness but I find great comfort in knowing the countless moms who have gone before me.
It helps that they were both ready to go.
(Maya was slightly distracted by the butterfly in her hand.)


 It is my new school year resolution NOT TO RUSH my kids in the morning.  We had plenty of time to spare getting into the car and getting where we needed to be.  This year we have our neighbor Ally three mornings a week so we got to take her on the first day too. 
Ella started at the 3-5 school this year which is just a walkway down from her old school.  Here you can see her old school in the back.  It is very convenient for dropping and picking up the kids but it is a major transition for her nonetheless.  I was incredibly proud of how brave and confident she was!

Almost ready to go in to their school...

It helps that Maya grew a bunch this summer and is nearly 6.  She didn't seem as impossibly small as some of the kindergartners being dropped off.  And I can't even tell you how comforting it was to know how comfortable she is at this school having spent countless hours volunteering here with me over the past three years.   She and I were in a good place and I knew dropping her would be a breeze.

But alas, as soon as we walked in the front door and saw all the familiar faces of the staff who were saying, "Hi Maya!! You get to come to school here now!"  I promptly, unintentionally, burst into tears.   No, not her.  Me.  Full on tears.
How did we get here?
I did a reasonable job swiping and hiding my emotion but these unbidden tears were merciless and were not to be stopped.  I knew I had to get out of there before she caught on.  I helped settle her and sat her down to color with another girl.  Then I said, "Okay, you're going to stay and I'm going to go," and I felt my heart shatter. She looked up at me and searched my face.  How to be brave when you are breaking so that your child can be brave when she really needs to be?  I did what was best for her.  I bolted.

After a tearful pep talk with Ange, I went home and got right on my bike.  I was going to enjoy this newfound space, damnit. I want to say it was amazing.  It wasn't.  I had a headache from all the crying and where I might have felt freedom, I felt disoriented and disjointed. I kept feeling like I had left the gas on or like I accidentally left home and forgot the kids were there. I kept telling myself they were at school but it felt all wrong. 

I went to school for kindergarten lunch to help out and I was so happy to see her.  She gave me a big, clingy hug and I asked if she had had a good morning.  "Some." was her reply. Then she asked me if I could sit and eat with her and when would I be coming to pick her up.  She wanted to go home.  

When I got home to eat lunch alone in the very quiet house, I worked to cultivate some gratitude for this new stage of my life.  It felt disloyal to enjoy the quiet when I was still conflicted about my kids being at school and knowing Maya wanted to be home, but they were there regardless.  I began to just accept that my whole person has been calibrated to them for so long (and recently for 2 1/2 months straight) that it would take some time to find my new rhythm.

I found myself pondering how stay-at-home moms feel, beyond a sense of loss, a sense of what am I supposed to be doing now? when their kids go to school full-time.  I have a list as long as my leg of things I want to do but it feels weird to be doing anything for more than a couple of hours that isn't related to being Mom.  Having so many of my own interests and passions, I didn't think this would happen to me but...well, it did. 

Then I looked up and saw this poster the kids made for me months ago and has been hanging in the living room.  I smiled and felt their love deep in my heart.  What I have given has mattered.  And it is okay now for me to spend some time on myself.
One of the goals I have for September which I am very much looking forward to is to clean out the house in a major way.  I started by attacking Ella's stacks and stacks of second grade papers.  I was able to recycle 85% of it and pack away a folder of her writings and memorable things from second grade.  It made me so proud to reread some of the things she'd written and see her progress over the past year.  It also made me feel really weepy and sentimental and left me wondering why I hadn't done this in June and waited until the first day of school to tackle it.

I could not wait to go pick up the girls.  Sandi came home early and we went together to get them. 

I'd say, by the looks of it, it was a good first day.

The tag that says she will be picked up instead of riding the bus.

Then down the walkway to get Ms. Ella.

The school kids: Maya, Ella, Kendall and Kaylee
It was a good first day all around.  I think that Ella was very brave about her new school but there are inherent issues with going from being the oldest in a school to being the youngest again, not to mention all the new methods to adjust to. 
We always do something special on the first and last day of school.  We decided to take the kids to Governor's to get some free pie with some of the countless stickers we got at the Folk Festival.
The host at Governor's asked how I was as he seated us.  I told him that it had been a long day and I was ready to relax over dinner.  (I may have actually told him I needed a drink, I'm not sure.)  He said, "Yes, you look tired," which I think is code for you've either been smoking something or cried your eyelids half off today lady.
 It was one of the more successful dinners out we've had (more joyful, less stressful) and I was reminded of the benefits to having your children growing up.  We were so immensely proud of them and I know they knew it. 

1 comment:

Emilie said...

I love you all so much and this actually was painful to read. I relate with so much of it. The reason you are feeling this so deeply is because you have done it so deeply, and well, and with all that you are. Your kids are going to do great b/c they are so grounded in all of that love from you and Sandi. The line about feeling disloyal to be enjoying time without them hit very close to home. Who knew what we were getting ourselves into when we signed up for this. Love doing it by your side. Awesome post and awesome photos.

Site Meter