When the Last One Starts School

First Day of Kindergarten
I cried all the way home. It was the first time that had happened—not the crying, of course, I am admittedly an emotional girl—but it was the first time I cried after a first-day-of-school drop-off. My youngest started kindergarten that day.

I knew the day would come. It’s time. She was ready. I was not.

I always drive my kids to school on the first day of school; the rest of the year they ride the bus. We loaded the car with plenty of time and chatted excitedly about what she could expect when we arrived. We found her backpack hook, looked around her classroom, and took photos with her teacher. I gave her a quick hug, put on a brave, excited face and told her I knew she’d have a great day. I could feel the tears start to well up, but I held them back until I was safely in the driver’s seat of my car. Never have I been so thankful for tinted windows. The tears just kept coming.

It was always bittersweet when each of my older kids hit that milestone. But there was always another baby at home…and now there is not.

For nearly 15 years, I’ve been a work from home mom. Almost 15 years of having my littles with me throughout the day. The youngest heading off to kindergarten signifies the end of an era. One I knew would come but it still left me full of more sadness than I had anticipated. It was exactly four years to the day that her brother had his first day of kindergarten. I had my baby home with me for four years. Even though she attended preschool, that was only six hours per week, so she really wasn’t gone much. That’s the longest any of my kiddos had been home by themselves with just me. No wonder I was taking this so hard.

Without any littles at home throughout the day, I’m kind of at a loss. I still work from home and I’m still a mom, but no more of the juggling working and mothering, at least not for the eight hours of the day when my kids are at school. Yes, this is a good thing, yet it’s also a change that seems hard. No more mornings of my youngest sleeping in and waking up long after the bus has left with her siblings. No more relaxed days of running errands, grabbing a snack in town, or eating lunch out as we spend our day together. No more of her checking the cows with dad in the middle of the day just because she’s home. It’s different. Yes, I know she’s ready. I know it’s time. Life marches on, but does it have to go by so fast? I know I can have more productive work days now, not having to schedule interviews during nap time or having to put on Paw Patrol for an hour to meet a writing deadline.

I love being a mom and I love my work. I admit I didn’t always balance both roles the best that I could or at least the best I thought I should in my mind. There were times when I stayed at the computer long after I needed to or said one too many times, “Just a minute, I have one more thing to do,” when my kids wanted to play. Sure, I do have memories of sitting on the floor and immersing myself in whatever pretending they were doing at the time, but now that this stage of them growing at home is over, I wish I had played with them more. It’s so hard to explain while you’re in the middle of it. In the middle of surviving the mess, it’s sometimes hard to see what you’re going to miss. I never wanted to wish the time away, but looking back I know there were times I chose other things above sitting with them.

I am so thankful for a flexible career that allowed my kids to be home with me, but I was always torn a little between being a mom and meeting my work commitments. There were times when I would stay up way past bedtime to get the work done or get up literally before the sun came up to get my day started.

All of that is over now. I have a relatively interruption-free work day. I can start working when they get on the bus and stop when they arrive home. I know it’s a good routine, but this sappy mama will take some time adjusting to not being able to sit in my rocking chair and snuggle my baby throughout the day. We’ll have to save our snuggles for weekends and evenings after bath time.

I know I don’t need to feel bad for feeling this way. I need to sit with the sadness and let myself experience a sort of “loss” in the era of motherhood that has passed. But I won’t sit there for too long. I am making a point to shut my office door for good in the afternoon. We’re a busy family and have lots of running and going to do with four school-aged kids. My time with them is so precious. It always has been, but I now have a newfound appreciation for it. I’m focusing on what we do have together, albeit different, but still very special. I’m going to enjoy catching up with my oldest as she’s big enough to sit in the front seat next to me as we drive to and from activities. I’m going to use the time my second daughter helps me make dinner to find out how things are going at school. I’ll look forward to listening to my son talk about his day when I tuck him in at night. And the youngest, well, she’ll still probably sneak into our bed for some late night snuggles.

I’m sure I’ll still have days where I cry some tears knowing how quickly life is moving and how fast my kids are growing. After a fun, wild, busy, noisy summer with all four of them home you would think I’d have been more than ready for school to start. I know the routine and structure is good and I admit it was time, but it will take some time to adjust. When my kids were babies, I always said I enjoyed each stage of life they were in, and I truly did. Each one brought joys and challenges. I’ve learned for my peace of mind, I need journal my thoughts and emotions, rather than push them aside. It’s how I process life’s changes and helps me prepare to embrace the next stage with joy.

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