My eyes popped open and I was instantly filled with anticipation. Still dark outside, I reached for my phone to check the time. 4:55 am. I knew I was awake for the day. It was not any ordinary day. This was the first day of preschool for my youngest son. I have been waiting for this day for a long time. All summer long.
As a stay at home mom with three boys ages 9,7, and 4, I am used to existing within a constant state of chaos. Noise, chatter about farts and Pokemon, and objects thrown through the air often swirl around me. On a good day- nobody draws blood when they fight with their brothers. On a bad day, I lock myself in the bathroom crying after yelling so hard I saw stars. A lot of days I am somewhere in between.
The beginning of preschool means I will have a break, three days a week, for 4 hours a day. Those four hours are precious to me. During that time, I will enjoy the luxuries of hearing myself think, completing a task without being interrupted, and using the bathroom by myself. I will cram as much writing, and as many Color Street tasks, appointments for myself, self-care time, and household chores into those four hours as I can. I will even be able to sit down for an entire meal without anyone else needing anything from me. It sort of feels like I won the lottery during those four hours. Maybe even better.
The beginning of preschool means more than just a break for me though. It means my youngest child is no longer a baby. He is a “big” kid who is learning to become independent. He will have experiences I am no longer a part of and will learn and grow in ways I am not in control of. He is ready and so am I.
I did not expect to feel sad this morning as we brushed teeth, combed hair, and took the first day of school pictures. I was surprised to notice a small knot growing in the pit of my stomach as we drove to school. My 4-year-old grinned from ear to ear as we walked towards his classroom and I noticed my heart beating faster. He marched into his classroom without hesitation, and I felt an assortment of conflicting feelings. My heart swelled with pride and excitement as he found his name above a hook and hung up his backpack (that is almost as big as he is) all by himself. But when his eyes lit up with excitement they looked to his teacher for approval- and not to me. I felt gratitude and excitement knowing he is in the same nurturing and structured environment both of his brothers flourished in.
I walked to my car in silence and noticed the heavy feeling in my chest expanding. My eyes filled with tears as I drove away and it occurred to me: parenting is one long series of simultaneously holding on and letting go. It is one small step on right after another. Some steps are tiny while others feel gigantic. Today it is preschool. One day it may be college. Parenting is acting calm and confident when inside you feel worried and unsure. It is doing the things you know you are ready for but all of the sudden seem scary. It is praying to G-d for a five minute break and then praying to G-d to protect them while they are away from you. Parenting is second guessing yourself every step of the way while also wondering how you got lucky enough to be their mom. Parenting is doing everything you can to help them become independent while also clinging to the hugs, the bedtime stories, and the sweet kisses they save just for you. Parenting is loving someone else more than you ever imagined possible and then sending them out into the world hoping it is kind to them. And knowing it will not always be kind to them. And praying for resilience when this happens. Parenting is holding onto the sweet moments while letting go of the terrifying fears. And it is holding on to the trust in my children, myself as a parent, and G-d while letting go of my child so he can grow into himself. Because isn’t that what parenting is all about anyway? Helping them to learn and grow into their own people?
Now, please excuse me while I go make the most of my next 3 ½ hours!