I wasn't prepared when L started kindergarten two years ago and I remember the lump in my throat and the ache in my chest as if it were yesterday.
I also remember chastising myself because I never, never thought that I would be "one of those parents". Pitiful. Pathetic. Parents.
You know the type.
Parents who live through their children with seemingly no definition of self...or at least self sans kids.
Well, all I can say now is, "what did my 19 year old self know?"
Nothing. That's what.
I think that what has become ever so apparent to me over the last seven years is that, now that I have kids, and am a "pitiful, pathetic parent", my extreme sense of loss over my children starting school has nothing to do with having no "definition of self" but rather a more clear, precise and defined "definition" than I have EVER had before.
I am so often scolded for being "hard on myself" and "unhappy with myself". While both of these things are true.....there are SO many things that I would change....it is also true that I (I am actually going to 'say' it) like myself more since children, than I have ever liked myself before.
I loved being the mother of a baby.
I loved being the mother of a toddler.
I loved being the mother of a preschooler.
And, yes, I love being the mother of school age children.
However, I don't feel as if I am ready for my time to be up, as a mother of the "others".
Last Wednesday I woke up, walked into the dining room where Steven was figuring his bills, and went into the ugly cry.
The cry may, or may not, have been accompanied by me begging him to let me have another baby......and the words "I am not done", repeated fervently.
(I am not proud...but I am honest.)
He hugged me.
He held me.
He patted my back and wiped my tears.
He consoled me.
And he assured me that "we", were in fact, done.
Admitting defeat I returned to the bathroom, put on my make-up and fixed my hair, got dressed, and then went in and woke up L who was "excited" for her first day of 2nd (where have the years gone?) grade.
I then went in and looked at my baby lying on the bed fast asleep as he had so many times before.
I kissed his head and stroked his cheek.
I took a deep breath, picked him up and held him in my lap as I did when he was a baby, and whispered softly, "B....it's time to wake up...."
Then, without even opening his eyes, his face scrunched up and the tears started flowing as he turned his head into my chest and cried, "I am going to miss you SOOO much."
(It was about this time that I knew that I was going to need to reapply my make-up.)
One thing I can say about my B is that when he knows something is ahead of him, even if it is unpleasant, he doesn't try to get out of it, he wants to just go ahead and (in his words) "get it over with".
Once during breakfast, and once on the ride to school, I spotted him blinking his eyes quickly and looking upwards as if willing the tears to relocate and go anywhere but down his cheeks....each time saying "I am so nervous.".
We arrived at school and Steven, L, B and I walked towards the building. I stopped B, having him take a picture outside his new school. He showed none of the signs of nervousness that he had before.
Two of my friends, Amanda and Amy, were outside, having just taken their children in. I had pep talked myself the whole way there and had kept the tears at bay. I walked towards them, kids flanked by my sides, and smiled to them.
They then asked "How are you doing?".....and it was as if they had given the dam permission to burst.
There was no holding back the waterworks that followed.
B, however, remained steady, DESPITE his blubbering mother at his side. We walked L into class and took her proverbial 1st day pic.
I kissed her goodbye and never did the tears stop.
She seemed unfazed.
I walked, what seemed like 10 miles, down the hallway and turned the corner into his class. I sniffed and wiped and sniffed and wiped and had tears everywhere but on my face.
This was me being BRAVE, I tell you. Brave.
We put up his tote bag, found his seat and I took more pics.
He was smiling and seemed 'nervous' but steady. (Much more steady than his mother.)
I knelt on the floor next to his desk and gave him a pep talk. (Admittedly it was more to myself than it was to him.) I kissed him goodbye and told
myself him that I would see him in only a few hours. Steven followed suit.
I walked a few steps and looked back to see him coloring away at his desk.
As I reached the door I heard his voice, wavering, holler "MOMMA!". (I am currently blinking away tears as I recount this.) I turned to find him running towards me and as I held my arms out to him he jumped into them, as he had a million times before, wrapped his arms around my neck and his legs around my waist, and said, "I'll miss you!".
There was no wiping the tears away at this point. They were freely falling.
I could hear his teacher, my friend, in the background, saying "B, tell your momma to have a good day..."
I bent over and started lowering him to the ground, praying silently that this departure wouldn't be any more difficult than it already had.
Once his feet hit the ground he pivoted, went back to his chair, and started coloring again.
I, however, found the nearest door, and my car, and left.
I looked at my phone and noticed that my sister had called.
I called her and blubbered incoherently. Another friend called and I tried to laugh about myself through the tears. Another friend called and I tried, unsuccessfully, to recap the morning without crying.
As I neared work (I work at a funeral home), I felt that God was gently reminding me that ANY one of the people that I would encounter at work today, would gladly, joyously, jubilantly, trade MY tears, for their tears of grief.
In comparison, I had NOTHING to mourn.
My son, and daughter, were healthy, happy children who had started school. Just as EVERY other healthy, happy child their age had.
For them to have NOT started school would have meant that our lives had taken a much different, less desirable, turn.
I should be celebrating my children.....not mourning.
I would like to tell you that my revelation was like a light through the clouds and that I skipped into work and never gave another passing thought to my aching heart, but that would be a lie.
In fact, it was after noon that day before I could even begin to speak about "it" without my throat closing up and my eyes tearing up.
In fact, when opening the "kindergarten mom survival kit" that my friends made, I still cried.
(Hey, it had a jar of hershey's kisses with a picture of B on it that was labeled "B's kisses", what do you expect?)
In fact, I cried upon picking them up from school that evening, noting how much it seemed they had grown in those short hours....and yet how small they STILL were.
In fact, I still hurt yesterday....almost a week later.
Yesterday, while out with a couple of friends, we ran into another friend of ours who works at the High School. Her daughter had started kindergarten as well.
She said that her daughter was crying when she left her in her class that 1st morning, but that it didn't bother her (the mother), and she didn't cry because she knew that it (school) was necessary.
This mother is NO less of a mother than I. Just different. Probably better.
Definitely more stable.
My friends looked at me, and I laughingly said, "I didn't do that well".........to which she replied, "I know, Kim, I heard. Everyone in town knows! They were all talking about it."
So, today, I will stop crying tears for B, and start crying tears of embarrassment. Maybe even tears of embarrassment for B.
Tears of embarrassment for L, too, while I am at it.