Fayetteville, N.C. — As I sit and watch several friends send their “babies” off to college, I know I’m lucky.
I don’t have to go days without laying eyes on my child, wondering if they’re eating, sleeping and studying enough. I have years before anything like that enters my realm of reality, and for that, I am thankful.
But I can’t help but realize that it all happens so very fast.
My daughter is starting her last year of elementary school this year, and I wish I could tell you I’m taking it well. I am not. I feel as though I am on a high-speed locomotive barreling toward a destination I never asked to visit.
Sure, I knew when I had kids that one day they would grow up and no longer need me, but knowing that and feeling that are so very different. Heartbreaking doesn’t seem an adequate enough word.
How about suffocating? Is that too dramatic? Perhaps, but honestly, when I think of starting middle school next year, I have trouble breathing. I mean, isn’t that where it all really starts to fade? Them wanting us to walk them to their classrooms? Falling into our arms at the end of a bad day? Begging for one more hug and kiss before they surrender to sleep?
When we have toddlers demanding every second of our conscious thought, we fantasize about the days when they won’t need us quite so much. When that time actually arrives, however, we realize how foolish we were to think it could ever get any better.
I did this when preschool was over. In fact, that whole last year, I marked every occasion with one sad declaration after another. “This is the last “All Saints parade,” I sniffed. “No more “Mommy & Me” teas!” I wailed.
By May, all the other moms were giving me the “enough already” eyeroll, and I couldn’t blame them. It’s hard to enjoy the ride when all you can think of is the exit.
And so I’ll try to do that this year as we make our way through fifth grade. I’ll keep my mouth shut about the last Fall Festival, the final Field Day, even the end-of-the-year clap-out. I’ll refrain from taking too many photos, from keeping every little art project, from asking too many questions at the end of each day. I vow to enjoy each event as it happens, and I won’t mourn the end until it actually arrives.
Middle school will start before we know it. But it doesn’t start today.
Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, "Designated Fat Girl," came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. She writes about motherhood and family-friendly events in Fayetteville here on Go Ask Mom.