Off They Go

School has begun around these parts.

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As part of our back-to-school prep work, Bob and I took the boys to a sporting goods store to buy them much-needed new sneakers. We found a pair pretty quickly for Charlie but finding anything for Henry was proving problematic. Nothing seemed to fit. After searching through several areas of the children’s section, Bob finally looked up at me and said, “There’s nothing here past a youth 7. What comes after a youth 7?” I thought for a minute, audibly gasped, and replied, “Hot ham. I think it’s men’s sizes.”

MEN’S SIZES. Henry wears the sizes of men. When the kind sporting goods store employee walked over and asked if he could help us find anything, I yelled, “MY LITTLE BABY BOY. HAVE YOU SEEN HIM? ABOUT YAY HIGH. HE LIKES DUMPTRUCKS. HE IS NOT HERE. I CANNOT FIND HIM. WHAT HAS HAPPENED?” No, I didn’t actually say that even though I was screaming it internally. Instead I said, “Hey, we were totally unprepared to spend $150.00 on men’s sneakers for our 11-year-old. What do you have in a men’s size 8 that does not cost so many dollars.” We eventually found a pair that worked for everyone in the ADULT SECTION of the shoe department and now I trip on a giant pair of shoes whenever I walk in the front door and it’s like a fully-formed grown-up lives with us now instead of a newly minted sixth grader.

Middle school is a whole new world but Henry is game.

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Charlie. Oh, Charlie. Always disappointed that school is a thing that continues to exist. Our good buddy spent a portion of his summer with a tutor helping him improve his reading and math skills. Although his tutor was complimentary of his behavior, I pretty much surmised that Charlie was merely tolerating this exercise in summer schooling.

Charlie also spent a portion of the summer at his elementary school being tested by an amazing team of specialists that are determined to figure out how Charlie learns best. I am easily overcome with emotion (not really a challenge for me, ever) when thinking about the road we’ve taken to get to this point with Charlie. His endless frustration with certain concepts, the tears shed over – and sometimes directly on – his homework, the crestfallen look on his face when he would wake up in the morning and I had to tell him, “Yep, it’s a school day, bud.” I am hoping all of these things – understanding, abilities, attitude – improve dramatically in third grade. With the school switch we made this past spring, he is finally in a place with the resources to help him. I’m so hopeful they can find the key that makes everything click for Charlie.

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Like a prisoner in solitary, Millie has been notching marks in her bedroom walls, counting down the days until we let her out of this hellhole and send her for some formal education.

Millie’s enthusiasm for kindergarten knows no bounds. She arrives home with stories of the friends she is making, the kids that misbehaved on the bus, stacks of be-stickered worksheets to proudly hang on the refrigerator, and an eagerness to do homework that she does not actually have. Unfortunately for Millie, they do not assign homework in kindergarten and this has not sat well with the child that has patiently waited two years for homework. So, we just kind of make things up or Millie finds an old workbook to write in and we all pretend that, yes, my goodness, she has so much homework to do!

She is having a delightful time and that makes me so very happy.

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High Emotions

Back-to-school time on Facebook is pretty much my most favorite time of the year on Facebook. It’s so fun to see how all of my friends’ children have changed over the summer. I adore seeing everyone’s kids all squeaky clean and polished up for the new year. Hair is combed, shoes are tied, backpacks are still in one piece. It’s great to see how happy everyone looks before the devastating realization of daily attendance sinks in.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend proudly posted a back-to-school picture of her two kids to Facebook. She mentioned how she was looking forward to getting back to a routine with school finally in session and how exciting it was to have a little time to herself again after a busy summer. Basically, neatly summarizing how most of us moms feel when late August rolls around.

But, because Facebook’s fine print apparently states that all comments posted must be completely ridiculous, an acquaintance of my friend stated in response to my friend’s lovely photograph how sad it made her to see so many moms so eager to send their children away to school. How upsetting that forced separation seemed. How the distance would just be too much for her. How she just couldn’t ever imagine being apart from her babies. How the whole prospect just made her want to cry.

Huh.

Really?

My thoughts when I read her comment can best be summarized as:

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Also:

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In addition:

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I mean, I’m my kids’ biggest fan but even I’m all, “SMELL YA LATER” when the first day of school rolls around.

I don’t seem to be built with the same genetic code that makes other mothers super emotional over big milestone moments. I can sympathize with their feelings and I absolutely don’t begrudge them their sentiments (of course not!) but I just don’t share them. I am always happy to see my children growing and maturing and learning how to empty the dishwasher all on their own because mama deserves a little help at this point.

Sure, I shed tears over plenty of things: certain episodes of The Good Wife, a particularly delicious dinner that I didn’t have to prepare, the day that my youngest child learned to wipe her own behind, when they sing It is Well at church. My heart isn’t made of stone. But, I absolutely never get worked up over my own children’s increasing independence. I am completely on board with them growing up. I guess I just pragmatically assume that was the goal of having them to begin with.

So, when the boys headed back to school a couple of weeks ago, I was excited! The first day of classes I was all:

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Then, I was kind of tired from the dancing so I gave myself the rest of the week to lounge around, in pajamas, exhibiting questionable personal hygiene, while eating a large amount of nachos because, well, nachos are really tasty and this past summer was really long.

THEN, week two arrived. I took a shower, hopped off the nacho express and decided to do something with my life. Task number one: The Great Back-to-School Purge wherein I eradicate ten weeks of accumulated summer detritus from Henry and Charlie’s bedroom when they are not around to voice opposition. I grabbed one of those outdoor garbage bags, donned protective headgear and headed in to clean out and organize every corner of their shared space. I threw out old summer camp loot, VBS crafts, torn up magazines, broken army figurines and an alarming number of raisins(?). Then, I set about to switch some furniture around to make more space for Lego pieces. Because it’s all Lego all of the time around here.

In rearranging the boys’ room, it made sense to weed out some of the older toys that they no longer play with. I dragged bins out from the closet, bins out from under the bunk bed, bins out from a couple of dark corners and piled everything into the center of the room in an attempt to create some sort of a donate/recycle/trash sorting system.

Only, I didn’t get very far.

One of the bins I found contained all of the big Tonka trucks we’ve purchased or been gifted over the past decade. There are garbage trucks and fire trucks and tow trucks and even a crane and no one plays with them anymore. They never come out of their bin. They have been occupying precious space on a shelf in the boys’ closet for more than two years now.

Something about seeing those trucks for the first time in such a long time, remembering how the boys used to play with them non-stop, remembering how they would drag them all over the house, scooting around on their knees, leaving tracks in the carpet, making fire engine noises, picking up pretend garbage, remembering how many times I tripped over them, kicked them in frustration. Something about those trucks and thinking about those baby boys and their little baby hands with their baby knuckle dimples, thinking about the years that have passed and how big they’ve grown and how Henry will be in MIDDLE SCHOOL next year and how everything is changing and, oh, my, suddenly I was all, what is this moisture coming from my eyes?

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It had to have been their dusty room. I certainly didn’t spend the better part of an afternoon crying over the sunrise/sunset moment of finding a bin of oft-neglected Tonka trucks. Other moms do that, other moms on Facebook. The emotional ones. Yep, it was definitely the dust.

Then, the boys arrived home from school, tossed their man-sized shoes all over the floor, started eating everything in sight and retreated to their shockingly clean room to fight over Legos. They were less than receptive when I asked them to please stop growing while hugging them uncomfortably tight.

I don’t even know what is happening to me anymore because I couldn’t bear to part with the trucks. I tucked them all neatly into a trunk in our bedroom. I don’t imagine they’ll get much use but no one is allowed to give them away.

And then, last night, I snuck into the boys’ room after they had gone to bed just to watch them sleep. It’s kind of smelly in there because boys, it turns out, are super stinky but it was nice to be able to stare at them when they couldn’t yell at me to “stop being weird.”

My robot interior appears to be crumbling.

IT’S HAPPENING

You guys. All of my dreams are coming true. School has officially begun. For every one of my children. All of them. They are gone for many hours. It is just as amazing as I thought it would be.

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Now, before you chime in and advise me that these days are fleeting and they are only little once and that I should cherish every moment, let me just stop you. Stop right there. Because, I KNOW. I know that, one day, in the not-so-distant future, I will be cleaning out a drawer or a closet or looking in that scary crevice between the washer and the dryer and I’ll find an itty-bitty sock or wee little pair of underpants and I will weep, WEEP, for the tiny little humans that my kids once were. But, TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY. Today is for cherishing, not my children, but the sweet, sweet sound of silence. It has been six long years since I have been alone in my house so LET ME HAVE MY MOMENT.

It’s a very ALL-CAPS kind of day. Because, I mean, just look at her. She’s so grown-up. She’s so READY. With her requisite Frozen lunchbox and purple-explosion backpack. This one’s going places. Probably painfully, since her shoes are on the wrong feet but whatever. She’s BRILLIANT nonetheless.

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I’m kind of in love with Millie’s preschool. It’s held in what was once the elementary school for our town. When they constructed a more modern elementary school, the old one was turned into a community center. They hold classes there for lots of different things and for lots of different ages and I was sold as soon as I saw the tall ceilings, giant old windows and transoms above the doors. It’s reason number 507 that I’m so thankful we live here – the accessibility of such a great program in such a lovely space. Millie, especially, is a fan.

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Even though today is Millie’s first day of preschool, Henry and Charlie have been in school for a week and a half and their reviews of first and fourth grade have been overwhelmingly positive.

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Charlie has adapted superbly to his new full day schedule with zero complaints. I’m just really, really proud of him. I wasn’t sure how the transition from half-day kindergarten to full-day first would go but he has exceeded our expectations. Then again, homework hasn’t started up yet so I’m expecting this smile will diminish significantly in size.

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I was talking with my sister on the phone a week or so ago and describing to her Millie’s new school schedule and the freedom it will afford me to finally work on some other projects and she said in the most sincere way possible, “You made it. You’re there.” And, you know what? I have made it. It feels like I’ve reached that part of parenting small children where I’ve earned a little breathing room. A few moments for myself. Just in time, too.