Hadley, One week old, October 2006.
“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around – and why his parents will always wave back.”
– William D. Tammeus
All week, friends have been asking me in hushed tones how I am doing. Last Monday, Hadley, my youngest, went off to kindergarten. As the bus pulled away, I felt a deep sense of calm come over me. After all, I’d had several private moments of tears leading up to the big day, and I felt like I had done my crying already. I’d read through Hadley’s journal, where I’ve documented milestones and funny moments through the years. I’d looked through all of her baby photos, brushing over her tiny face with my index finger, totally in awe of the fact that I once had a child that small. I was very happy when the dreaded moment was finally over. Not thirty seconds passed when things took a turn for the worse. I turned around and realized my husband was crying. Naturally, this triggered a cry-fest at our bus stop among all of the mothers. If you’re ever looking for a guy who will cry at the drop of a hat, Gordie’s your man.
After I survived this unplanned weep-fest at the bus stop, the day came and went without much fanfare. What once felt like a looming finality ended up feeling like just another day. We reverted from our leisurely summer days to our school routine practically overnight. As September races toward October, I long for one final weekend swim at Crane’s Beach followed by a picnic dinner. Instead, I’m on the sidelines coaching soccer followed by a box of popsicles for the team. I’m drowning in backpack mail, so much so that I might need to rent a dumpster for my side yard. I’m up at the crack of dawn making lunches and setting out breakfast. I’m setting the oven timer so we don’t miss the bus. I’m driving like a mad woman to activities, often at least five minutes late, with my alarmed children scolding me from the back. On Thursday, we were so late for soccer that I think my car was up on two wheels when we went around the bend at the top of our street. My son, whom my husband and I secretly call “the enforcer”, shouted “Mom, we are NOT on the highway!”. I’m sending in family photos, scheduling sitters for Parent’s Night, and reminding myself that I will never be the uber-PTO volunteer mom, nor do I aspire to be. At night, I’m collapsing into bed at 9:30 totally convinced that I am coming down with mono.
The days are longer now, and I’m often alone from 8-4. It feels strange, but for the first time I’m able to mentally compartmentalize the last decade, put it on a shelf in my head, and line it with a dozen imaginary trophies. I like that I am able to reflect on the journey and pat myself on the back for a job well done. For years, I’ve given out m&m’s for potty training, stickers for staying in bed, and prizes for filling box charts. I’ve encouraged, recognized, and rewarded them when they’ve cleared their plates, hung up their towels, or been a good friend. This week I celebrated me. I read a book over lunch, I took myself shopping, and I even got to use the bathroom in uninterrupted silence. I feel content, hopeful, and happy. Life is good!