It has been so long since I last sat down to write one of these posts that I feel like we need a reintroduction. To the kind folks who sent notes asking where I’ve been – thank you. I hadn’t planned on taking such a long hiatus, but it ended up being intentional and I’ll fill you in on that in just a bit. But first things first, this happened today:
Fingers crossed, it went swimmingly with much excitement about riding the bus even upon waking while rubbing the sleep from her eyes. We had a mini-class yesterday in which both The Bug and I went to her kindergarten room for a quick-intro-get-your-feet-wet kind of day before the “real” first day. I could write a whole post about the emotion of this day, but you have read those before and what I’m sure of is that you can look at this photo and you know. You know what she was probably feeling and what we were probably feeling because you’ve been there on at least one end, and if not on the other, you can imagine what it would be like to hand over your child like the great gift to the world that she is and you know what we were feeling.
When we returned from our trip to Hawaii at the end of June, I knew I wouldn’t have too much time to myself this Summer. Accustomed to a preschool schedule that at least afforded me a little me time during most days of the week, Summer would be different. I signed up The Bug for a few camps here and there (and to clarify, “camp” here means short day classes, not overnight camp which is what that word has always connoted for me) and otherwise, we would spend the rest of the time together filling our days in whatever way we chose. And this, if I am honest with myself and you, was a scary prospect.
One of the most challenging aspects of becoming a parent for me has always been the loss of personal freedom. An only child myself, I learned early how to spend plenty of time alone and to enjoy it, to need it. A introverted extrovert, I both thrive in the company of others and yet need significant time to myself to recharge. As any parent knows, any need for solo recharging goes almost completely unfulfilled once you become a parent. Yes, you can steal a moment here and there, but I no longer had the luxury (and it was a luxury) of long hours spent by myself, alone with my thoughts. So, at the onset of the Summer I wondered: how in the world are we going to spend so much time together with no real agenda?
So wouldn’t you know that as the days wore on and The Bug and I spent the better part of each day together doing ordinary things – strolling on the beach, walking the dog, playing at the playground – activities that up until now would have made me feel antsy, either craving a little time to myself or wondering what in the world I was not getting done – that I found myself loving it?
The night before last, I was folding her laundry and that was actually the night when it hit me, this whole kindergarten thing. But it wasn’t about how I was worried about letting her go or if she’d be okay by herself on the bus or would she make any friends? As I folded the breezy cotton sundresses and the grass-stained leggings, each piece of clothing held a memory of my time spent with her this Summer. This is the dress you wore on our trip to the zoo. You wore this top when we spent that lovely sunny day at the Bloedel Reserve . As I folded each item, I felt the feeling that I have up to this point only felt when looking at photos of myself and my life before I had her, a yearning for a time that now seems unattainable, whose ship has sailed. In looking back at pre-baby me, I often feel a pang of longing for my carefree life, a life in which my job largely defined who I was, when I traveled where and when I wanted to, and when I knew of and had frequented all of the hip restaurants in town and actually had the clothes to wear while doing so. This time, I had that same feeling of longing, but for a time that had just passed and that a couple short months ago I had feared. This Summer, I resisted the urge to check in on Facebook, to write these posts, to feel like I needed to be somewhere else, (partly out of lack of time to do so) and I settled in. And you know what? For the first time in the five years since my daughter was born, I allowed myself to love my life, where I am, right now. I stopped thinking about my next steps or what I should be doing or what I could fit in and I simply enjoyed it. Even I am surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
Today, on this first day of kindergarten, I am missing my Summertime companion. In a blink, that little bundle who came into my world five years ago and wailed and wailed and needed every moment of my time morphed into a little person whose company I treasure. When I gave up my career when we moved here, I used to always have a running loop of questions in the back of my mind about what will I do next? What are my next steps? While good to consider, they also prevented me from valuing what was right in front of me: my life as a mother. I can tell you that it wasn’t because that role wasn’t important or I that I always wanted to be somewhere else, but it was so ordinary. I have to be meant for something more than this, I’d think. Everyone does this. What this Summer taught me was that up until now I had never let go and allowed myself to enjoy it. Just a day ago, I will sheepishly admit that I still had a hard time writing: stay-at-home mom as my occupation on one of the kindergarten forms. I wanted to write one of the titles I’ve previously held, something so that the teacher would know the many things I’m capable of doing. The funny thing is, of all of the things I’ve done in my life, not one of them is a fraction a bit as important to me as my current title. Not one. And yet sadly, it took me five years to get to the point of being able to take two months to really sink into the role and let it be all that I was doing. I allowed myself to be present.
I have said it before but may not have been completely honest in saying that I feel lucky to be in a position to be able to choose to stay home with my daughter. But today, and after these two wonderful months, I felt truly grateful for this time. Although there are now more hours in the day when she will be away from me, I feel good about the person I’ve helped mold her to be with whatever influence I’ve had so far in shaping her. She is kind, affectionate, reverent, observant, curious, loves the natural world and especially its creatures and has much more self-confidence than I did at her young age. She has grown. We have grown. She is ready for this next step.
Today is turning out to be a beautiful sunny Summer day – something you really cherish when these days are few in this part of the country. I have several hours in front of me in which I could spend working on those next steps or catching up on “me” time. But, (and here’s the rub), all I can think about is: what would The Bug and I be doing today if she were with me? But I’ll wait until the end of the day, with all of the other mothers, fathers and caregivers who will reunite with their kids at the bus stop or around the dinner table and we’ll hear tales of first days and first experiences, all had without us. It will be ordinary and special, all at the same time.
And so it goes.
A few photos of Summertime fun:
A beach day camp where we did treasure hunts and made sand candles and cool beach-stuff like that:
Ferry trips to Seattle…
Ice cream Tailgating. (This time was for Sally’s seventh birthday – note the birthday boa). Sally had “Frosty Paws:”