In less than two weeks, my oldest son will be a fifth-grader and my youngest son will excitedly enter the third grade. Quite honestly, it does not seem possible.
I know the clichés:
They grow up so fast!
Enjoy every moment.
The older they get, the faster it goes.
Time, slow down!
Where did my babies go?
I could go on forever.
But the fact remains that they HAVE grown up very quickly. And here I am, planning for mid-elementary sons, when it seems just yesterday, I was crying on the sidewalk outside my oldest son’s kindergarten classroom on his monumental first day of school.
The memories come flooding back. Those pictures on the sidewalk outside our small home—you know, the ones with your kids uncooperatively holding a sign, telling the world what grade they have advanced to. But THIS, these boys . . . their growth, development, new adventures, and journeys—this is MY life. These boys are my life. The older they get, the more their individual lives move to front, center stage, and mine moves slowly and sadly to the back. One day I will be relegated to behind the curtain, much like the powerless Wizard of Oz, while my sons are on full display for the world to see as they gloriously reveal the role their lives were meant to play.
No longer is my 11-year-old that sweet-talking, hand-holding, cuddle bear who could not get enough of his momma’s lap. No longer is my nearly-9-year-old that chubby little ball of laughter who told jokes and lived to be the center of attention.
Daily these sons of mine are growing away from me.
They are becoming independent and more reliant on their friends and social circles than on the mother who has given her all to ensure their every need is met.
While their need for me changes as they get older, I pray they will always know I am ready, waiting, wanting, and hoping to be the solid rock they come to when life’s waters start to rock the boat. As one child enters fifth grade, gone are the days of “Mom, can you help me with my homework?” as his educational skills, in some subjects (ahem . . . math) have far surpassed my own. As the other child enters the third grade, lost is the “baby” who needed help getting dressed in the mornings or could not wait to fill me in on every single detail of his day on the drive home from school.
Oh yes, there are still hints of the youngsters I miss. On occasion, a bike accident or ungraceful fall on the basketball court will require Mother Nurse to emerge. I feel a twinge of guilt for finding solace in their pain, only because I am the only one who can kiss it and make it better, as I did when they were toddlers.
I am sure there will be the inevitable friendship woes and break-ups that arrive with adolescence hovering in the not-so-distant future. Will they turn to me? Or will they prefer the comfort and solidarity of their peers? Either way, I will be there. Waiting, wanting, hoping, and praying they know my arms, ears, and eyes are always open to their needs.
The line between hovering and nurturing begins to become unclear at this point.
Do I force that first-day picture? Do I show up for lunch in the cafeteria and surprise them with their favorite fast food? Or do I, against every grain of my being, stay away, allowing them to revel in the new freedoms each year of school brings? There is no guidebook for this stuff. Or, perhaps there is. But I will not be reading that particular manuscript. Rather, I will rely on the inherent mom knowledge or gut instinct that comes from a collective spirit of motherhood. And when that spirit fails to provide the answers I seek, I will reach out to those faithful mentors who have been waiting in the recesses for me to need them.
A mother’s job is never done. My own mother is proof of this. The older I get, the more answers I receive, the more maturity that falls upon my naked shoulders by human experiences forcing lessons learned, the more I realize the LESS I know!
How do I enter this new season? I was not equipped for this.
How do I let go, when every cell in my body wants to hold on?
How do I prepare for a future where my most beloved creatures on this planet need me less and less with each passing year? As difficult as mothering may be some days, the knowledge that we are all doing our best to prepare these precious children to be successfully able, confident beings living independent lives is not only an overwhelming call of duty, but it can be a heartbreaking one.
Moms, as a new school year begins, even if just for a single solitary moment, give yourself permission to let the worries and fears of the world fade away. Will my kids get sick? Will they lose their masks? Will they make friends? Will they be OK?! Just revel in the present moment, be in the changing atmosphere. Know that you will never lose significance in these precious lives, even though your role changes with each passing day. A mother’s prayers for her children will never cease, until her dying day. And perhaps that is when she becomes their guardian angel, protecting them from Heaven above.
Look out world, we’ve got a whole crew of future heading back to school. Let us all collectively cheer them on from the sidelines as they pave the way toward a new and brighter world.