I had great intentions to take these photos, send all my kids off to school, and post them the very same day. Because, hey, all my kids are gone and I’m going to be able to accomplish the world! Instead, my kids started school August 9 (I know, it’s way too early…yet also just right because they might have killed each other had they had more time at home together), and just over 2 weeks later I’m getting around to this blog post. I will say that I have got some random things done that have sat way too long on my to do list, my email inbox is nearly caught up, and my house has never been so clean for such an extended period of time. I’ve been saying for about 12 years that as soon as all my kids go to school I’m going to clean my house and just sit there watching it stay clean. It is a fantastic experience.
Ok, so back to my kids heading off to school. My littlest one started kindergarten this year. My heart has been ripping into pieces and breaking for months about this. I have cried myself to sleep just thinking about it. I have fought back the tears at all times of day doing all different things, or nothing at all, for months on end. You see, besides her being my best buddy, since I was a little girl I wanted to do two major things in my life. First, graduate college (checked that off in 2002!), and be able to stay at home with my kids when they’re little. Beyond that has always really been up in the air. Those were the most important things to me.
Now I’m at a stage in my life that never seemed like it would come. I feel extremely fortunate that I have photography already in my life. It anchors me and gives me a bit of purpose. It’s something I love and feel passionate about. I now have more time to devote to it and grow my business. Besides this phase of life being a bit of a cross roads for me, my youngest has been my buddy for the last 4 years while the other two went off to school. She is hilarious, loving, kind, snuggly, good company, and my little side-kick. Knowing that our days alone together are over is nearly more than I can bare.
One especially hard night for me (by the way, don’t edit photos of your little girl, that’s going into Kindergarten, taking a snooze on her bed while listening to heart-pulling music) my husband pointed out that I got to keep her an extra year and it’s time to let her go. I feel so lucky that she missed the cutoff last year by mere days. As I reflect over the years, I vividly remember sending my middle child off to Kindergarten. I didn’t think it would be THAT hard (she’s the middle child after all), but as that bus pulled away with her I had so many flooded thoughts through my mind wondering if I had prepared her enough for the big world. I don’t think that it helped that she did make the cutoff and is young for her age. I remember a bit of my heart ripping away as that bus took her out of my constant care and onto independent things out in the unknown. This year felt different. I feel like my youngest is so ready for school, but still my baby.
Fast forward to this year with my littlest. The bus came and there was a bit of a frenzy happening while all the parents were trying to get the bus stop breakfast wrapped up, final photos taken of the group and their own kids, and realizing the bus wasn’t as late as we thought it would be. My youngest was so excited to get on the bus that it was hard to get a hug in. She walked up so bravely onto that bus, with her sister, then ever-so-quickly turned around at the top of the stairs to look back at me and give an apprehensive little wave. Then she turned toward the aisle and she was off. (A happy side note…I had pushed the record button on my camera and pointed it in the general direction of her getting on but had no clue what I might be actually filming because I wanted to watch her with my own eyes. Later that day I pulled the video up and saw that the whole scene was miraculously on there. I got her walking up the stairs and turning to wave…and yes, it made me cry all over again.)
I was remaining strong for her as the bus turned around to leave our neighborhood. It was at that moment that God blessed me with a little glimpse of her through the bus window as she looked out at the road. I then did a little squeal of “I saw her!” and then I lost it. The flood gates opened and down poured the tears. (As they are now as I write this.) My husband embraced me as he expected this to happen. I sobbed for a moment trying to compose myself and wrap my head around everything. Then I quietly said, “Welp, I’m still standing, I guess we should walk up the hill.” (I’d been saying for weeks that I thought I’d collapse in a heap and he’d have to carry me up the hill back home.) Then the neighbors all caught sight of me and gave me hugs and opened the flood gates back up for myself and for them as well.
We all understand it. We knew it when we brought these little ones home from the hospital after they were born. One day they will leave. Everyone says it goes fast so cherish them while they are little. That phrase has passed through my mind countless numbers of times through the last 12.5 years. It has been my motto. The baby years and young years are hard. But I tried to cherish them in my own way. Now that phase is over and it will never be back. I’m so thankful I got to have it. These kids are my whole world.
I am now adjusting to my new reality…a whole lot of time that is mine. Mine to decide what I do with it. I have my photography to keep me busy and fulfilled, but I still want to be home for the majority of the time my kids are home. I want to greet them when they get off the bus, hear about their day, give them a snack, check their folders, harp on them to practice piano and empty their lunch box for the next day, and grind into their minds that chores are important. I want to share their joys and their sadness, their accomplishments and their almost-had-its.
Over the past two weeks I’ve discovered that having some extra time is quite dreamy. There will always be moments that I miss them deeply, but I’m not going to lie, this stage seems like it’s going to be pretty great! I’ve realized that I don’t have as much extra time as I always thought I would. I still have to do all the things I did before, I just don’t have a little one trailing behind me asking questions, whining, helping, or making me laugh while I do it. Yesterday I stopped to grab some Subway and my heart missed my kindergartner so much. That was our special thing we did together. She loves a “ham sammy” and often asked to go there…and I often gave in. The memories and times that I had through their little years are something I will always hold dear to my heart, as hard, difficult, and sometimes overwhelming as they were. It was my dream to do it and my dream got to come true.
So, here they are. The oldest in 7th (which is middle school, but doesn’t seem like a big deal because he already went to middle school before we moved here), the middle child in 4th, and the “baby” in Kindergarten. We’ve got different departure and arrival times again. Which means I get to walk the oldest to the bus stop far away and enjoy the crisp morning sunrises. But I can only walk him to the corner then I have to hide behind the bush so he/his friends can’t see me too easily… The girls let me stand with them, an hour later, as we patiently wait for the bus to arrive and I continue to have mixed feelings.
To all you Mom’s out there sending your last one off to Kindergarten, I feel you. It is bitter-sweet.