All the back to school busyness has left me kind of raw. Very raw actually. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, trying to figure out why. Is this year different? Is it because my baby is in preschool now, and Addie in full day? Is it because we no longer have our nanny?
There is certainly the fact that my babies are getting bigger. That’s great. And hard. And sad. And awesome. And fleeting. But that alone is not at the heart the rawness that I feel.
Third grade. Lily is a 3rd grader. That’s part of it. Man, kids were mean to me in third grade. As an adult, a successful, well-adjusted adult, I have had multiple people come to me as adults to apologize for how they treated me as a kid. I’ve always brushed it off as ‘kids are mean’, as that is what we said before bullying was a district-wide curriculum word. But just the other day, I was thinking about this rawness. And third grade was rough, they were mean. Mean, mean. The fact that adult men and women, who have lived 25+ years of life since that time still feel so sick and guilty inside for the way they treated me, the fact that they contact me on Facebook to apologize…well that’s how mean. So, it’s okay if I have a little bit of scarring when I think about sending my kid off to grade 3. Don’t get me wrong. I had friends, I didn’t walk around school with my head held low, my mama loved me like nobody’s business, I was the best big sister on the block, I was too smart for my own good…I didn’t let it ruin me. But when my little girl walks out the door to third grade…it hurts. The little Jenny inside of me feels afraid for how third grade feels. The mama in me knows that she is different and wonderful, and the kids she hangs out with are different and wonderful. But still, I’m scared. Because kids are still mean.
The next thing I’m noticing about back-to-school is the constant state of comparison I have going in my own head. The tireless what if…what if I was that kind of mama? what if I didn’t have to worry about this or that? what if my kid didn’t have to ride the bus? what if I volunteered more? what if I got to work earlier? what if we had less toys. Seriously. I’m reading blogs about it, validating blogs, articles about how we are all doing okay. Things we all should read. Your okay and my okay don’t look the same and that’s okay. How liberating. But why do I feel the need to read another mom’s articulation of what’s okay for her to make sure I’m doing alright? I am an advocate of other moms and of myself. I never want to be in any discussion that reeks of mom vs mom. My ways barely work for me, so I certainly won’t push them on anyone else. I can feel convicted about how I want things to be, regardless of how different my reality looks, I will even work hard for those things, but I won't judge others in order to see the value in myself. It makes me sad that by the time I get this all figured out, it will be nearly over and re-do just isn’t an option. My kids will be out there in the world with all the best and worst of how I've treated them and how they treated each other.
Last week I go to preschool with Bryson and I feel nervous and awkward. I’m the only working mom in the class, I’m the only one who has a youngest child in the class. I’m not used to that. My hands feel weirdly empty, like they should be busier soothing a baby or picking up a puzzle that my toddler spilled. I’m not in yoga pants because my nanny will be meeting me in the parking lot after this little orientation so I can rush off and be late to work. I’m not doting on him like a first child, and he doesn’t need me like the other kids in the class seem to need their moms. He can't get enough of his new teacher. Want's every minute of her time. This feels awkward, like I’ve never felt before, and I leave feeling like I won't fit in with all the wonderfully nice moms I've just met, and that makes me sad. But then 5 days later it is time to drop him off for his first real day of preschool. The first day when the mamas leave. What was awkward a few days ago, feels good now. Some of these three-year-olds have never been left before. They are crying out in pain and anguish. Their mamas are crying too. The pain in the family is palpable, and in one case, seeing it brings tears to my eyes, I’m hurting for how much they are hurting. Bryson goes in happily, confidently, and there is not a doubt in my mind that he won’t. He is all joy. He has been waiting for this day as long as he can remember. He got toted here in a car seat, lost here in the halls as a toddler, and waited for his sisters many times at the end of the hall in the parent area. Now it is his turn to go into his classroom, and his heart could not be more full. I look at him and I feel proud. I look at the crying kids and I feel bad that my boy happily waves “ga-bye mama” after a quick hug. I know I shouldn’t. I’m happy because my boy is not sad. Am I a better mama because my kid didn’t cry at preschool drop off? No, of course not…
But I’m reminded for the millionth time in this parenting journey that there are more ways than one to do this well. I'm getting validation from my child's happy face. The one of three faces where I should be looking for it.
So raw isn’t a sad word or a happy word. It’s that my heart feels more on the outside that usual. Which is, you know, saying a lot coming from me. I’m noticing my failures and my successes a little more often. I’m loving what I am, but mourning what I am not. I can taste the tears and laughter of my own childhood. And during this time I take a few vacation days to savor the time with them. Then I work hard and efficiently to make the most of my time at the office. Then I wake up early and stumble to the coffee pot to remember I am God’s child and spend time being still. To feel that God is love. And I am loved.
And this raw life is beautiful and good, and it’s mine and I’m proud of it. My kids will have their own kid hurts that make them raw, but it probably won’t be the third grade, or going to preschool for the first time. It will be things that I can’t and do not want to anticipate. There are beautiful blessings everywhere. Tomorrow I will be careful to notice them.