Two years ago, I flung my Diaper Genie(s) out the front door and celebrated the one (and so far, only) milestone that didn’t leave me a crying mess. That is, until my husband dragged me to a preschool tour a few weeks later.
PRESCHOOL? My H and S were just three. They were still toddling into my bed with blankets and stuffed animals tucked under their arms in the middle of the night to snuggle. What – school?! They were crapping their pants a few weeks ago! Routines and lunch boxes and schedules and strangers – ALREADY? Why?!
Against my determination to hold on to whatever was left of babyhood – and the fact that, in spite of my crying through the entire school tour, both times, they still let us enroll – off they went in September. They loved it! And before long, I did too. They embraced their new routines: learning letters, numbers, words and songs, and exploring worms and caterpillars and pumpkin guts. Writing, “Mommy, I love you” in crayon for the first time, coloring a discernible picture of Ariel and Eric and Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, and discovering the wonders of cutting and gluing and glitter. (OH, the glitter!) I love watching them express how they see themselves and their world (the center of which, unsurprisingly to those who know us, is Disney).
For me, it’s been fun connecting with others who smile knowingly when one’s daughter wants to wear nothing but princess costumes, and brings half the sand from the playground home in her, um, glass slippers. We’ve (all) been blessed with two years of new friends and bonding and transitions eased by the support and comfort of settling into this place and time. And I’m beside myself over having to leave yet another piece of my daughters’ childhood behind.
What is it about moving forward, even in the most normal, expected, and happy way, that triggers a revolution in my brain, and leaves me clinging to the moment in my daughters’ lives as if it’s all there is? Granted, yes, life is such that it could be. But I can’t live (consciously) in a world like that, any more than I can live in my own head these days. I can’t stand myself, and these random tears that threaten in the diaper aisle of Shop Rite (why am I going down there, anyway?!) or when I think about how, on their next birthday, they’ll need two hands when they hold up their fingers to tell me how old they are.
As if their dance recital and art show didn’t choke me up enough, today I considered buying one of those tiny so-totally-stash-able mini bottles of vodka to help get through their upcoming Portfolio Day. (It’s our school’s version of graduation.) As if that stands a chance of keeping my emotions in check. I cried my eyes out when we “graduated” from our fertility doctor’s office. Yup, I’m hopeless. Motherhood has irreversibly crippled my composure.
When my emotions spiral out of control, I try to step back and remind myself of how lucky I am, that it’s a gift to watch my children grow up and set them free, one little bit at a time, as they’re ready (even though I may never be). I try to remember that we don’t have babies to keep them that way forever, and I wouldn’t want to keep them here forever, either. (Just don’t challenge me right now; I’ll totally break.)
I think of all the new things I’ve fallen in love with along our five-year journey through parenthood: their enthusiasm for new things and little things, and how they’ve taught me to pay attention and live in the moment more than I ever imagined this multitasking-addicted control freak ever could. I love their I-love-you’s and hugs and their giraffe birthday parties and the way they sing the “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” theme song in the shower (and how I catch myself singing along, even when I’m home by myself.)
I love our random 2 A.M. conversations that begin with one of them saying, “Did you know…” and end with something about birds or weather or some meal we ate three months ago. I love that I have two more hands to hold, two more hearts to love, through life’s treasured and unexpected moments, wherever we go from here.
I cry because I’m proud of them, and grateful for their company and their love, for the glimpse of the people they will become, and of the mothers they might be themselves one day. I cry because I’ve loved so many more moments than I can remember at one single time, and I want to hold onto all of them before time whisks me off to somewhere else, to some other place that I can’t yet imagine or love or belong to. But, I will.
And if I’m lucky enough, I will again. And, again.