Black Mary Janes. Light-up Skechers. Hot pink Nikes. Bright white Keds. Pastel pink tennis shoes. 

I probably can’t even remember what I just walked into the other room for, but I can recount shoes and backpacks from the past six years of  elementary school. Despite how my mom-brain needs a good dumping (maybe then I could remember what I walked into the other room for), the truth is, I’m rather grateful for these seemingly useless bits of information from our 11-year-old’s school experience.

From the Barbie backpack in kindergarten to the emoji backpack in second grade, from the pastel pink backpack in fourth grade to every grade in between, the truth is that these memories remind me of the journey our oldest child is on, growing at warp speed.

Those black saddle shoes from kindergarten weren’t just purchased because I wanted to make sure I was following the school dress code to a T, but also, because, at that age, she couldn’t tie her shoes. Velcro strap Mary Janes to the rescue! 

Those light-up Skechers that Olivia saved up some of her own money for? She adored them in first grade since she’d learned to tie her shoes over Christmas break that kindergarten year. If you ask her, she’ll tell you she doesn’t tie her shoes “the normal way” which is probably true. Weeks of blood and sweat on my part and years on hers led me down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos and an easier way to tie shoes than your traditional bunny ears. I thought my heart might burst watching her tie her shoes those first couple of years! When I wasn’t stressed out about how long they were taking her to tie and get out the door in. 

The emoji backpack, with the matching pencils and erasers, was the by-product of pop culture her second-grade year. Poop emojis led to fits of little girl giggles. Any bathroom joke now posed by her younger sister, is not the source of a giggle, so much as it is an exasperated sigh of embarrassment. 

If you would have told me four years ago that I’d be missing my little girl’s ability to giggle uncontrollably, regardless of who’s listening, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. “She has years of being a little girl ahead of her,” I thought to myself back then.

Except, somewhere in between emoji backpacks and pastel everything came a lot of growing up

I know we’ve all gritted our teeth and bitten our tongues when yet another person peppered us with the advice to enjoy it all, “because they grow up so quickly,” but, as the hard, busy days of parenthood with babies and toddlers pass, giving way to the sometimes even busier days of school-aged children, I look back on those words of advice and nod my head in understanding.

My little girl, who once had to have me walk her into school each morning, proudly flashing those Mary Janes to her newfound friends, now rushes off to her classroom looking more and more like a young woman every day. If I’m lucky, she’ll kiss me on the forehead as she sprints off. Ironically, that’s just how she let me kiss her when she was headed to class as a younger child. Weep.

The little girl who once used to start each day at the crack of dawn excitedly asking for help in getting dressed for the day, help even in picking out her socks and hair bows. Hair bows! I never thought I’d say I miss her hair bows, but, well, I do. Sigh. 

No need for help. No bows. And firm in her self-knowledge of what’s cool and what’s not (this mom who once thought she knew what’s “in” is suddenly learning I’m way behind the curve these days), she picks out of her own items for her school uniform, wears her hair exactly the same way each day, parted down the middle with ridiculously amazing natural beach waves that I’m jealous of, and it’s a far cry from the crack of dawn. I love this girl, but her overly sunny, early morning disposition as a young girl has been replaced by tween hormones that have me dragging her out of bed. Who would have thought? Honestly, I didn’t.

This isn’t supposed to be happening already!

Maybe I came into this whole parenthood thing more naive than I thought, but as I watch her bound out the door this year with her all-black backpack and her red converse (picked out by her, of course, but I would honestly have loved to wear myself), I know that the days may be long, but the years are most certainly short

As you start the school year with the endless list of character-themed, color-coordinated items that your kiddo just can’t live without and you want to pull your hair out at the thought of looking just one.more.place for it, know that the days of their loud, stubborn insistence on these things, their excitement over the backpacks and crayons, will come to an end. Probably sooner than you could imagine.

As you’re racing out the door on that first day of school, struggling to pull everyone together before the tardy bell rings and your son or daughter needs help tying their shoe, take a deep breath, because it’s stressful, but take heart in knowing that before you know it, not only will they not need your help, but a part of you will wish they did. 

The start of the school year brings with it such an overwhelming mix of emotions—not just for our children, but for us, as parents. New experiences, new friends, new accomplishments and growth. And yes, new backpacks, school supplies, clothes and shoes. 

Our wallets may cry out this time of year, but I can tell you that my mama heart cries out more than my wallet. 

I’m overjoyed at who my children are growing up to be. I love watching them learn and accomplish great things. I love their burgeoning independence!

But we’ve once in awhile, I miss Mary Janes. And Barbie backpacks. And getting to plant kisses on a cheek that don’t then get countered with an embarrassed look. 

Good news for me, though, my youngest heads to Kindergarten next year. Maybe I’ll get my second chance with those Mary Janes. And most importantly, appreciating every moment, knowing how quickly it will all change. 

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Melissa Ohden

Melissa Ohden is a well-known Christian and Pro-Life Speaker. She is the author of the award-winning book, You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir. Melissa is a frequent guest on radio programs such as Focus on the Family, the BBC, and the Mike Huckabee show. Melissa’s a frequent contributor to sites including The Mighty, LifeNews, and Fox News. Melissa, her husband Ryan, and daughters Olivia and Ava reside in Kansas City, Missouri.