My Summer, Three Years Ago

There seems to be a reoccurring theme on many of the blogs I have been reading this week – the end of summer and back to school. Some of the blogs have been coming to grips with this year’s change of season, but many have been a look back at summers past.  

I’ve also recently been asked to be a guest speaker for a Mothers of Preschoolers group (MOPS), which has made me start thinking about what life was like with toddlers in the house. It is hard to believe that it has only been three years that my girls have both been in school. It feels like billowing breaths ago we were learning the alphabet and how to tie our shoes. Now we are learning how to talk to boys and work respectfully in a group.  

I wish I had been journaling while my children were younger. Too many times I would tell myself, “Oh – I should write this down…later” but later never came. And our memories can’t always be trusted;  we get distracted by the present and forget the details of the past. This summer I have allowed the last couple of weeks to shade my opinion of the whole summer, even though the beginning was glorious and refreshing.  

Today I found a zip drive forgotten in my computer bag. It had been used sporadically over the last few years. On this portable flash-drive were a couple of forgotten memories. One was written just after The Hare started kindergarten and The Tortoise was heading into 4th grade. Here is the journal entry:  

The Hare's first day of kindergarten

 

I thought getting older was going to upset me the most. My children reaching milestones in their lives meant that I was passing more and more of mine. And without them here to take care of, what the hell was I supposed to do now? Who the hell was I supposed to be? All summer I dreaded the start of school because it was just one more year I was moving further away from the optimistic, possibility-filled young woman I once knew in my 20’s. Now I am just the mother of a 4th grader and a kindergartener. That’s what I thought at least …that was all I focused on this summer. My youngest talked non-stop about what it was going to be like to go to school. She laid out her clothes weeks before we started and checked to make sure her lunchbox was right where it needed to be. Yet, the weekend before school started she got more restless and the night before she couldn’t sleep, her stomach hurt and she cried and cried that she changed her mind.   

“Couldn’t I just stay home with mommy just a little bit longer?”she asked.   

My heart hurt. I couldn’t believe it…she was really going to leave me and I knew it had nothing to do with my fear of getting older…it was a fear of being totally alone now. And not just being alone, but saying goodbye to my children. I had to smile and stay positive – sing songs and rub her little back and assure her that she was going to have fun on her first big day but in my head I was crying and crying to myself, “no, don’t go, just stay home with me. You can stay forever”.  

I remember when she gave up her pacifier. She was 2 and we took all of her pacifiers over to a friend’s house to give to their new baby. I told The Hare that she didn’t need them anymore and that it would be a wonderful gift to give them away to someone who did need them – a baby. She gladly gave them away and was very proud to be the big helper. (Much like her joy and excitement all summer when talking about all the possibilities of the coming school year.) But when it was bedtime she asked for those pacifiers. Her little voice quivered and she had tears in her eyes when I reminded her that we gave them to the baby.  

“You’ll be alright” I said, “the morning will come soon and you will see that you are a big girl now”   

Then I sat outside her bedroom door and cried because I knew she was very upset to not have what comforted her at night. That is how I felt last night before kindergarten. I kissed her goodnight one last time.  

“You’ll be alright tomorrow. You’ll have so much fun and you’ll see that you are a big girl now.”   

Then I sat outside her door and cried again. She didn’t go to sleep this time though. I ended up carrying her into our bed and slept with her all night…watching her breath, smelling her sweet damp hair clinging to her cheeks and wished with all I had for that 5lb baby girl to be placed back in my arms…remembered whispering in her ears, kissing those tiny toes, feeling her sweaty hands grasp my breast in the middle of the night nursing until her belly was so full it pressed against my ribs. I missed her already and she hadn’t even started school yet…until this morning.

 She wouldn’t eat breakfast and she hardly said two words all the way to school. She didn’t want me to leave the classroom until I was the last parent standing in the room. When I finally let go of her hand and walked away we just looked at each other.  

” I love you” I said.  

“I know” she replied, and then added, “but will you miss me as much as I am going to miss you?”   

“Probably more” I said. And then I left the room and cried outside her door…. again.   

Yes, she had fun today but she couldn’t sleep again tonight. Her stomach hurt after dinner. At bedtime we said our prayers, read our book, sang our songs and snuggled just a little bit longer. And when I said goodnight, and kissed those sweet little lips for the last time today she held tight to my neck.  

“I don’t think I will miss you any less tomorrow,” she whispered.   

“I know” I said, “I won’t miss you any less tomorrow either.”   

So here I am at 1am, still thinking about her…still regretting all the moments I said “not right now…in a minute…or maybe later” when I should have been playing Candy Land one more time, making chalk drawings on the driveway just a little longer, or reading the same book for the 100th time because one day I went to bed with a teeny tiny baby and today I woke up to an independent 5-year-old and had to say goodbye at the kindergarten door.  

It woke me up a little to read those words, a slap in the face, stinging smartly a reminder that every year I lose another piece of my little girls. Every year they are growing up into young ladies. Every year I need to enjoy whatever stage we are experiencing because next year it will change again. And I will have to remind myself over and over that this is how it is supposed to be – they are both alright. They are big girls now.

10 thoughts on “My Summer, Three Years Ago

  1. What a poignant memory! I know that feeling of panic in the pit of your stomach when they stop doing X, and you know you’ve been wishing and waiting for them to stop doing X, but suddenly you realize they will never do X again and the thought of that is more painful than you ever imagined.

    It’s amazing to see the people they are becoming, and I wouldn’t want them to stop changing and growing for anything. I would like, however, to be able to go back once in a while to some of those earlier moments, to relive them again in the flesh, hear their voices and hold their round baby faces in my hands again.

    Sigh. Knowing how right it is doesn’t make it any easier. Somehow, though, knowing you’re not alone in feeling that way does, at least a little. Thank you for writing about these moments.

    1. Oh – what I wouldn’t give to hear those little voices either. You don’t even remember them changing until you hear it again on a video. My mom made an amazing video story for my brother’s wedding rehearsal dinner and she embedded a recording of him playing…can you imagine? Finding a recording of your child almost 30 years later? It was awesome.

  2. I cried as I read this…so many memories rushing back to me–especially little ones giving up the pacifier, nursing moments, and of course the night before and morning of Kindergarten. I just sent the youngest of my four (my “big boy”) off to K this past Monday morning, and it really hit me pretty hard that everyone is now off doing their own thing . Thanks for such a touching post!

    1. It took me a while to figure out what to do with myself – there are only so many times I want to clean my house or head to the grocery store. I have found that I love volunteering in the community. Good luck to you!

  3. Letting go as they grow is really tough. It’s a yin yang as they mature. My mother told me when my oldest was born, “Every day they will need you less.”
    how true.
    would you be interested in reviewing my book, “Raising Able: how chores cultivate capable young people.”? If so, email me your address to susan at susantordella dot net.

    1. How ironic though that every day I feel like I need them more – sigh. Thank you. I’ll be emailing you later today!

  4. I know just how you feel. When we moved out of our San Antonio house, I sat in your room and cried, picturing you sitting on the floor in front of the mirror on the door, fixing your hair or putting on your make-up. Love you.

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