I’m sitting here listening to the quiet and sluggish sounds of the kids eating breakfast and getting ready for their day. Somehow, the excitement of the first day of school has changed drastically, yet imperceptibly, over the years. With two moved out, one away to university, and the last two starting high school today, everyone is one step closer to the front door. My latest mantra? “Everybody! Out of the house! (I love you, but you all have to go…)” They get it. They’re ready. I’ve made sure of that…
But there was that year that I had all five of them at the same school, in the same place, at the same time, all day, every day. Ohhh, that was a good year. They spanned the student body, from first to eighth grades. As Parent Council Chair, everyone else seemed to automatically defer to me as the expert. I got a lot done that year.
It was hard-earned. And I knew it would go quickly; I was only ever going to get that one and only year of ease, comfort, and routine. I saw it coming. Realized the gold value of it right about the second day of kindergarten, when I was bundling and trotting two kids to school every morning, taking one back home, taking that one back at lunch, bringing them both home, feeding them lunch, trotting them both back over to school, leaving the other one,…. well, you get the idea. Every day. In all weather. For a year.
I know. I chose to have kids. But in my defence, no one ever manages to think through all the little crappy details.
And so, on the third day, I downloaded a countdown app on my phone. And I set the thing for the first day of grade one.
362 days. And counting.
Every time I felt the pressure and despair of the daily grind, I’d check the screen.
Halloween came and went. Threw an awesome party for the kids. Christmas. Valentine’s Day. The milestones were ticking off the calendar. March Break. 171 days.
Summer relief lasted 37 hours. With teacher dad and all five kids home in my hair for two months, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I am no entertainment director, though I did learn the secret to keeping kids busy 24/7 with ease and a big long chore list! 70 days.
Back to school shopping. Good and early, smiling all the way through WalMart. Erasers for everyone!!!
5 days. The grumbling started. Rooms to clean. Laundry to be done. Clothes to try on/throw out/replace. Groceries to be replenished. So much work.
1 more day.
I couldn’t sleep. For the first time since motherhood set in, I was going to be by myself. Completely alone. For five and one half solid hours. I had a plan: celebratory breakfast with the moms, a long hot shower, crepes for lunch, maybe a little tv – something R-rated. Oh yes, this was going to be a good day.
As I happily escorted the children down the street, that fine September morning so many years ago, my feet barely touching the sidewalk, my good friend and neighbour waved from her porch.
“You’re looking mighty happy this morning,” she called.
“11 minutes ’til the first day of school!” I bubbled.
“YES!” she agreed. “I just saw your husband; he didn’t look quite so enthused.”
“I know! Did he even talk to you?”
“Oh yeah. And then mumbled something that sounded like, ‘302 days until summer…'”
Yeah, he used to be a morning person…
So as I watched the kids line up and disappear into the big double doors of scholarly bliss, I heard the choking sobs of some of the other moms waving goodbye to their offspring like they would never see them again. I had the dubious privilege of having five incredibly well adjusted, confident kids; never understood the separation anxiety. But I tried to respect theirs, as I went around the corner of the building to flip a few cartwheels. I skipped back home with the weight of the world sliding right off my back like water on a duck.
Putting the key in the front door, my phone beeped with a text from my husband.
‘Happy Mothers Day ;)’
‘I love you too X)’
My last two highschoolers are now watching me type; they’re ready a half hour early, and I know that’ll pass. But the celebratory breakfast is a mere hour away. The house will be empty, even if just for a few hours. And I do know, that when everyone has gone and moved on, and there will be times that I’ll miss them, I also know that I will have earned the right to sleep in a little, eat the good jam, and shower with the door open.
Happy (real) Mother’s Day everyone!!