I see you there, the one who is dreading the inevitable. The one who is not quite ready, and probably wouldn’t be if you had a choice. It feels like most every other parent is cheering wildly, and there you are with a proverbial lump in your throat. I’m there with you. I understand.
We look at Facebook as a way to not think about it, quickly regretting our decision. Our feed is full of pictures of kids who have already started school and humorous blog posts celebrating mothers’ freedom. It’s not like we don’t’ enjoy, or even want freedom. We aren’t saints. We yell. We lose our temper. We wish we could have 10 minutes of silence. So it feels disingenuous to express just how much we will miss our kids when they go back to school. But as much as we look forward to having some time to ourselves, we can’t escape the grieving.
In a week and a few days, I am sending my youngest daughter to school. She will simultaneously be the first child I am sending to Kindergarten, and the last. I homeschooled my oldest kids their first year. I was the one who taught them to read. I was the one who unlocked their learning styles. I was there when my oldest discovered she was passionate about history and books. I was there when my middle daughter unearthed her scientific mind and read book after book about women scientists, explorers, and doctors. I was able to see them succeed, see the look on their face when they did that hard thing they didn’t think they could do. I was also there to see their disappointments. I held their hand when they cried and grew frustrated. Each morning I stood at the counter, drinking coffee, watching them write their name. And each week it became neater.
Now I send my baby to school, where she will learn to read. Where someone else will discover her learning style. Maybe it will be in the library, or in music class, but somewhere she will find something she is passionate about. Someone else will watch her hold her pencil each day. Someone else will be there to watch her both fail and succeed. I’ll be drinking my coffee at home alone.
They tell us this is good, that it is a part of parenting. We give our children the freedom to succeed and experience independence and we give ourselves that same opportunity. Now we have options – go back to work, focus on writing, get those projects in the house done that you’ve always wanted to, volunteer……you get the idea. We are supposed to be excited about the possibility. For those stay at home mothers, this is something that we haven’t experienced in a very long time. But in the early morning hours, when everyone is still sleeping, I look at the pile of school supplies and the brand new backpack just waiting to sit on the shoulders of a five-year-old, and I cry.
So grieve, mama. When you watch your babies walk in the doors of the school and you feel your heart break into a million pieces, don’t rush to put them back together. Give yourself the time you need. It’s okay to miss them. It’s okay to not quite know what your next step is. Drop them off at school. Pray for them as you head home. Drink your cup of coffee in the quiet of the house. They’ll be home soon.