End of Summer Blues or Celebration?

8.7.16

I’ve recently identified two camps of “mom friends.” The first camp is eagerly counting down the days/hours/minutes until the school doors swing open for the 2016-17 school year. The second camp is mourning the end of summer, commenting on how quickly it’s passed and how they wish it would last until Labor Day…at the very least!

I have mixed feelings about the end of summer. On one hand, I agree that it’s zipped by. The days were long, jam-packed with activities and quite exhausting. But, the weeks flew by. We all got older. The kids grew a little taller (and I grew a little wider). But, I think we maxed out summer. I think we packed as much fun into each day as possible. Now, I’m preparing for the next season.

I say preparing because I’m not quite prepared. This year, the first day of school for my kids will be my last official day as a full-time mom. For nearly twelve years, I’ve had at least one child with me during most of my waking hours. When my oldest was getting ready to start kindergarten, I began dreading this day and convinced my husband that we needed one more baby to keep me company… just to put off the inevitable a little while longer.

As my caboose’s first day of kindergarten approaches, I’m finally ready to begin my next chapter: one with time to take deep breaths and to refocus. To stop measuring all of my success in terms of my children’s behavior/academics/achievements… To start defining a few goals for myself as I enter my second half of life… Six years ago I wasn’t prepared to address these scary questions; now, I’m older, wiser and ready. (I think. I hope!)

Until September 23, my school hours will be consumed with planning a fundraiser for a local non-profit. I agreed to take on this role a year ago, thinking that it would be a welcome distraction from the sadness of sending my baby off to kindergarten. I reasoned that the flurry of phone calls, e-mails and meetings that go along with benefit planning will fill the new stillness of my days as I adjust to my new normal. Although all of the planning has made this summer more chaotic, I think it was the right choice. In the beginning, I will need to be busy.

My friends with school-aged kids tell me how quickly the school day flies by. They laugh when I tell them that I’m sad and worried about it… I realize that my standard “to do” list will not disappear and that it will be easier to knock it out without my little buddy in tow. But, I’m going to miss him. And I’m going to miss his preschool, his playgroup and our trips to the park, zoo and children’s museum… I also know that when the clock strikes 3:20, I will have to hit the ground running. There will be homework, activities and dinner: a lot to pack into those precious hours before bedtime.

While my heart is authentically blue about sending my baby off to kindergarten and having another summer behind us, I must choose to celebrate everything that’s ahead. This is going to be a big year. My baby is going to learn how to be a successful student, make new friends and important skills like reading and writing. He is probably going to lose the cute way he pronounces certain words. (I love the way he says “guls” instead of girls.) For my other two, I felt like kindergarten was the biggest year of change in their elementary school lives. That makes me excited for him…but part of me wants to keep him just the way he is. I do love my son at five and a half.

My middle daughter is going to start middle school. It will be a big year for her, too. But, I’m excited for her and know that she’ll rise to the occasion. She’s ready to decorate her locker and will enjoy mixing up teachers and managing a more challenging schedule. My oldest son began middle school last year and will help guide his little sister along. It’s going to be a year of change for all of us…a year of big, positive changes. I just need to keep focusing on all that we are gaining (not losing).

xo Kara

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Happy for Him, Sad for Me

2.12.16

I dropped my youngest child, fondly referred to as my caboose, off for kindergarten round-up this morning.  He looked so big and grown-up as he took the hand of his middle school ambassador and walked down the hall away from me, without looking back.  All morning I’d had butterflies, feeling nervous for him and a little excited too.  But, I was not prepared for the intense sadness. . .the lump in my stomach as I pulled away from the school without him.

Today, I only left him for a brief hour, but it represents the end of a beautiful chapter in my life. Being four and a half years younger than my middle daughter, we’ve had five years together while his older siblings have been in full-day school.  He’s been my little sidekick, a great source of happiness.

I realize now that I’ve parented my third child with a different perspective.  With my first child, I thought that whatever phase I was currently experiencing (teething, potty training, full-body tantrums, whining, bed wetting, etc.) would never end.  I sincerely believed that each one would go on forever; I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. With my third, I had the experience to know that he would eventually outgrow each one. And that allowed me to minimize the importance of the negatives and to enjoy the positives in a way that I had not allowed myself with my first two, who are only 19 months apart.

With my third, I know how quickly the time at home with me will pass.  I cherish holding his little hand in mine as we run errands and have made it a point to play with him everyday.   Because I know that one day, he’ll prefer his friends to his mom.  I cherish his open acts of affection, sitting in my lap at church and kissing me on the cheek repeatedly.  Because I know that one day, he’ll be too big and too self-conscious to do that anymore.

My job as a mom is to raise my kids so that one day they will be able to soar from my nest.  Like so many things involved with great parenting, it is totally counterintuitive.  I love having my little chicks at home.  My happiest moments are when my sweet family of five is together, enjoying each other.

I also recognize that my deep sense of sadness is coming from a place of selfishness.  I really am only sad for me.  I know that kindergarten will be an incredible year for my son.  He will grow and learn at an unprecedented rate. So, I must choose to focus on the amazing year ahead for him:  his great teacher, new friends and all of the skills that will provide the foundation for a lifetime of learning. . .