I welcome the first day of school with open arms, every year. I don’t get sad, I don’t get nostalgic, I just think, “Thank the good Lord, these people (teacher husband included) have to leave the house right along with me in the morning.”  I know where they are, I know (for the most part) what the schedule is, and I know that when I come home my house will look exactly like it looked when I left it that morning. 

It’s beautiful. (Not the house—the house is a moderately well-kept but still crumbling and somewhat sticky 1400 square foot space crammed with seven people and all their stuff. It’s practical; the back-to-school schedule, THAT’S beautiful. I’d live in the back to-school schedule if it were an actual place.) 

Anywho (yes, anywho), this year, we have one in middle school, one in 1st grade and one in preschool, along with two in day care. I remained unsentimental about the middle schooler, probably because her dad has taught that level for several years and I know—as a former 11-year-old girl–for the most part, what’s in store for us. My biggest concern with our oldest son was making sure he looks through his glasses for the eye exam in order to avoid another letter home from the school nurse stating he’s blind and I’m clearly not addressing the issue. And the preschooler had been excited for so long to be a “big kid” that I couldn’t run him in the door on his first day and leave him alone fast enough.

Cake. Then, not so much cake. 

Suddenly, the preschooler didn’t want to be left at preschool (which, given his new title as “preschooler,” is a bit of a problem), and, in this second week, we went through one of “those” mornings, where you pry the clinging child off your leg and run out the door feeling super awesome about your parenting skills as they scream in a teacher’s arms.

I stewed about it all day, until I came up with a plan to bribe him with bubble gum each afternoon and, before I leave every morning, have him wave out the classroom window, “the same window your brother used to wave from.” 

The next day, I showed him the window.

That’s when it hit me.

It had been two years since Hutton stood at that window and waved. Two years. And it felt like a blink.

We all say it goes fast, to the point that I hate to say it goes fast because everybody says it goes fast. Every August, we strap on their backpacks, relieved and remarking how we “can’t believe summer is over,” and soon it’s Christmas and Spring Break and the 4th of July and they’re another year bigger and we’re another year older and wiser and removed from our own childhoods and all of it–all of it–seems like it just happened.

I remember being dumbstruck the first time I realized I was driving a minivan and reviewing spelling words with our then-7-year-old daughter. It was just one of those every day moments where you put down your cup of coffee (I’m driving with coffee?!) and think, Crap, when did I get here?!

It. Goes. Fast. We know it. So, why do we only recognize it fleetingly? 

Listen, I’m the biggest hypocrite when it comes to this stuff. As I write this, I’m lying on an air mattress squeezed in between my kids’ doorways upstairs, implementing version 4.0 (or 5.0? I can’t remember, I’m tired) of sleep bootcamp, and less than an hour ago–with every one of them up in arms or sitting in time out–I’d have traded the whole crewl for a decent burrito. Most days, I wish things would go faster, that I could warp speed to a decade when they’ll stop crawling on us at 3:00 a.m. and swallowing packs of bubble gum and using 12 Band-Aids on a bug bite.

What I really need to do is slow down. 

What, I think, we all really need to do is slow down.

How cool would it be if all, everyone, agreed to that? I mean half the time we’re rushing through life because other people are rushing through life and we feel pressure to keep up. What if we all just…didn’t? 

At least, for a while. 

For a moment. 

And, for certain, when a 4-year-old is waving out his preschool window and looking forward to your return. 

Because, soon it will be next August. And it will have gone way, way too fast.

Jessica Rettig

Jessica Rettig lives, works and, after years of being told to do so (she has a sneaking suspicion it was to make other parents feel better about their own chaos), documents daily life (at Facebook.com/fivelittlelunatics) with her husband, Brad, five kids—Keaton Amelia (11), Hutton (6), Rustyn (5), Joey Michele (2) and the baby, Roosevelt-- and emotionally-challenged Weimaraner in Lincoln, Nebraska. She also tries to run away on a daily basis--usually four or five miles--but she always comes back.