It happened again for the third year in a row. On the first day of school, I watched my kid get on the bus, and I cried as it pulled away.
Kindergarten was one thing. I get crying when my oldest started school for the first time. I was heartbroken. My little buddy was now in school every day, all day. I lived somberly in a dark cloud for months, missing her like crazy.
I keep expecting that sadness to go away when school rolls around each year.Or at least for the sharp edge of it to wear off. Surely, I’ll mature, right? Surely, I’ll send her off with a proud smile, wave, and a skip and a jump back to my quiet house. Why am I still crying at the beginning of first and second grades? I have been thinking a lot about why this is.
I am bad about holding on to the good times. I struggle with change. I fight new things because I’m so comfortable where I am. And since I’m like that in life, it makes sense I struggle at the start of school as well.
I live for my kids’ breaks. I just do. I love hanging out with them (give or take a day where I don’t…hey, I am human!!), especially now that they are bigger, it’s so fun to be at the pool all day, explore the park, visit the zoo, or hang at the Children’s Museum. We love lazy days at home where we walk the dogs, watch movies, read books, play with friends, or play video games. Their smiles and their laughter and their teasing brings life to my soul. There’s nothing more hilarious than watching Gavin literally beat me at Frozen Monopoly or Heidi play a prank on me just to see me laugh.
This means that when school starts, I just feel sad. I dread it a little bit. I lose focus. I wondered if we made the most of our summer. I compare ours to other people’s on social media. I flip back through our pictures and let the nostalgia fester, sad our summer is over.
It’s just like Life…yes, with a big L. We look back at the good old days. We look at what everyone else is doing, accomplishing, winning, earning, etc. We think about what we could be doing instead of what we are doing. And we panic. Why does it seem so much harder for me? Why haven’t we done the cool stuff they’re doing? Why do they have more friends? More fun? More money? More likes?
Here is what I am learning. Seasons come. And seasons go. Heidi was a tiny baby for awhile (felt forever at the time, but now it just feels like a blip on the radar). She was a toddler for a bit, then a preschooler, and then a school-aged kid. We are creeping closer and closer to her pre-teen years. Each time school starts, I am reminded I cannot go into each new season of school (and life) letting myself steep in the nostalgia of the past, missing her smallness, wondering if I made the most of her little years, sure I missed something along the way, longing for a redo.
Life doesn’t work that way. You know how sometimes you get sucked into looking at all your old pictures…or reading old cards and notes…or even scrolling old social media posts? It’s really heart-warming…until it’s heart-wrenching. It’s sweet…until your gratitude begins to slip into some kind of depression that the “good old days” are gone.
For myself…and my kids…I have to be better about these new seasons. I want to teach my kids to embrace new things, accept new challenges, and walk confidently into a new year, thankful for past seasons and ready for new ones, not just sit and cry when good things come to an end.
We had a fantastic summer. I am so full of gratitude for all of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We had some incredible days with our friends…some super lazy, boring days…some clean-the-house days…and some days we all lost it on each other, screaming and slamming doors. But, just like life, that’s all normal. We did the best we could with what we had, and summer has come to an end. Time for a new routine, new friends, new experiences.
I may be leaving some good days behind, but there are some super sweet ones ahead: volunteering at school, lazy Saturdays, Friday night movie nights, holiday breaks, and so much learning and stretching and growing.
To fight my old plan at the beginning of the school year (which was basically just crying), I tried to come up with some action steps to help me in the transition to school (and maybe help me out in life too):
- Stop living in the past. Go over the good times once in awhile. But don’t forget there are so many more beautiful moments to come!God may have worked on you one way, but He may be trying to teach you something new this time. Our babies grow up, yes, but big kids are so fun too! Even just last night, I snuck Heidi out of bed to sit on our back porch to listen to the crickets, watch the stars pop out, and chat about second grade and being eight. If I had done that with Gavin, it would have been like trying to get a rabid raccoon back into bed afterwards.
- Tell your FOMO to take a hike. (For those who don’t know, this stands for Fear Of Missing Out). Seriously, I don’t think this was a thing before social media because none of us knew what anyone else was doing unless we called them on the phone. We can’t do it all. So make your own priorities important and let the rest go. If you’re doing what you love with the people you care about most, you’re not missing out on anything.
- Work on your passion. What can’t you stop thinking about when your mind wanders? For me, I think about the novel ideas I have, the blog posts I want to write, the magazines I want to peddle my writing to. I could easily fill up eight hours a day doing that stuff. As much as I love stalking authors on Instagram, I need to get busy being one. I have more time for this with the kids in school.
- Be thankful. Stop looking in other people’s yards, or even out the window, and pay attention to what is in front of you. Chances are, it’s wonderful and amazing, but you’re not even seeing it because you’re too focused on everyone else. Talk to and compliment and date your husband instead of being envious of others’ relationships. Work on your dreams with the amount of time and energy you spend being envious of others’ accomplishments. Make your own fun memories with your kids (And this doesn’t have to look like what others do! Which leads me to the next one…)
- Do you. Spend your time doing what you want and not what everyone else is doing. Hate the gym and would rather make tea and mediate? Then do that! You’d rather cook at home than eat out every week with the girls? Then do that! You’d rather stay home and have your kiddo help you get some things done rather than spend a whole day at the Museum? Then do that! You’d rather lounge around and not make plans every weekend instead of pack it full of events? Than do that! And don’t be apologetic about it. Everyone is different. I love a sunrise run in the morning. One of my best friends would rather stab herself in the eyes than do that. We’re all different.
- Enjoy each season as it comes, and release it when it goes. This one is super heard for me, especially with my kids. I was fine moving from high school to college. I was fine leaving college for an apartment and a job. No problem getting married. But my kids getting older? No. Just no. The changing of seasons and that dang bus stop never ceases to remind me that time is marching on. It’s the inevitable marking of my kids growing older, and every mom knows the pain that comes with that. It is what it is. Be sad about it for a bit and then be happy for them. It’s their biggest joy growing up. Act accordingly (at least in front of them! Go ahead and cry in your room later).
- Pay attention to your boundaries and what you let into your life. Let in joy and peace and energy and order. Keep out trash and oversharing and boundary-less people and time-sucking crap.
- Focus on the positive. What you do What your strengths are as a family. What you have experienced. I used to spend a lot of time being sad we didn’t have a bigger family. Then I realized I was missing out on how easy and fun it is having just two kids. If I spend all my time focused on what I am missing or what we didn’t get to do or what that person has that I don’t, I will live in misery. As sinful humans, it’s tempting to live in that space sometimes. And social media makes it worse. (But be on social media enough to read my blog LOL).
I wish I had two more to round this up to ten. I’m gonna go for it.
- Stay stocked on iced coffee. This is common sense.
- Work out. Get fresh air. Trust me on this. These are both my anti-anxiety pills (but no shame in my game; I still got some Xanax in the cupboard).
Life goes in cycles and season. It ebbs and flows. Do I want to live in my sweet summertime with my kids forever? You bet. But I know that’s not exactly best for myself or my kids. They need to learn. They need to have other relationships besides the one with their mom. They need to understand the big, wide world outside of themselves. They need to learn to navigate new challenges.
Can Life be sweet and happy and perfect all the time? Of course not. Yet we act like that’s how life should go. If it was, we would never grow. We’d never learn sadness or empathy or patience or compassion or even just experience the mountains and valleys of a darn good story. Who wants to read a story about a heroine who is constantly happy and bubbly and experiencing good things? That’s gross. Nobody wants that. The good and bad times are what make a story, and a life, legendary. We just can’t be afraid to live it.
So next year when my big kid hops on that bus as a third grader, and her little brother trails behind her on his way to kindergarten, I hope I’ll let myself cry some tears (ok, probably a lot, SHUTUP) but that I won’t live in a dark cloud for months. I’ll cherish every minute I have with them. And then I’ll point them onward and celebrate where we might be headed.
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” C.S. Lewis