Yesterday we had “Fun Finale” at my daughter’s school. This special day marks the end of third grade. Next year, she will move over to Proctor School for grades 4-6. I am in awe of the fact that I will have a 4th grader in September.
At the end of yesterday’s event, the principal gave a little graduation speech as the students stood in the back of the room listening. She then proceeded to organize the students for a slide show. As she waved them forward to take a spot on the floor, the students began to chatter and disperse and things momentarily teetered towards chaos. Confident and direct, the principal leaned into the microphone again and said, “Parents- in elementary education, this is what we call a transition.”
For an entire week, I’ve been in my emotionally fragile state which sets in every year at the end of school. My life right now is headed full-steam ahead towards the biggest transition since becoming a mother almost ten years ago: my baby goes to kindergarten in September, and my oldest child moves to the “big school” in town. It’s a time in my life I’ve been anticipating for so long that I was beginning to think it would never actually get here.
All those nights of three children 3 and under where I felt like a prisoner in my own home seem like a lifetime ago. Laundry piled up, my hair was often greasy and unkempt, and my body was doughy from three straight pregnancies. My noisy breast pump got more mileage than the treadmill. My wedding night lingerie stayed balled-up in the back corner of my drawer for years, and I trapsed around in light blue fleece pajama bottoms and crappy tee shirts with stains over each breast from constant leakage. I rocked, I swaddled, I burped, I wiped, I soothed, I bathed, I dressed, I fed, and I fawned. I repeated these daily doings in a robotic manner for months that quickly became years.
As they grew, the challenges became different but no less daunting. Hair pulling, biting, and tantrums so dramatic that it looked like the Wicked Witch of the West might melt down right through my kitchen floor. Playmats gave way to toys that whistled, sang and beeped so loudly that I was certain I was nearing my imminent mental demise more than once. Getting them dressed felt like a wrestling match where I felt an advantage in size, but was always amazed by their stamina and willingness to fight to the bitter end. Finally, their bodies would surrender and become limp, too exhausted to fight any more, and for a moment things would feel calm as we slipped on overalls and a bodysuit.
Where I once raced my husband to touch my finger to my nose and say “not it” to changing a dirty diaper, I was soon rushing bare-bottomed children to the bathroom to sit on the potty and earn an M+M. Giving evening bottles turned into reading stories, which of course continues now. My first mother’s group in Andover led to a playgroup in Boxford. When preschool schedules took over, the playgroup dissolved. I’ve kept a laminated place mat with mug shots of all the kids on it in a random kitchen drawer. One of the other moms made it and I’ve kept it more probably for myself than anyone, as a sentimental reminder of times gone by.
All of those memories, and many more have led me here, to this place, and to this day. Recently I’ve been focused on letting go of the terrible sadness I often feel about turning towards the next decade of motherhood. I’m vowing to celebrate what’s behind me more, and focus on all the good that will come next. I realized the other day that I am actually really excited about next year. I like the looks of our how our family is evolving so far. They are quickly turning into caring and sensitive children who are, for the most part, delightful to be around. There’s still much work to be done, lessons to teach, and unforeseeable drama to live through. Yet as we round the corner in the final lap of year ten, I can’t help but smile. My friends, in motherhood, this is what we call a transition.