Earlier this week, while flipping through old photos, I suddenly realized that it’s been over seven years since I decided to become a stay-at-home mom.
That added up quickly. Really quickly. I could have sworn that it’s only been a few years or so.
When I look back on the past seven years, it’s all kind of a blur. Don’t get me wrong – I have loads of happy memories and I wouldn’t trade this gig for anything in the world – but when you have three children that are only twenty-three months apart each, life is pretty hectic. And between doctor appointments, play-dates, preschool classes, school drop-offs and pickups, sports schedules, and everything else that my children seem to be involved in, I estimate that I spend at least two-thirds of my life driving our mama van around.
Sometimes I think that I should have skipped the degree in Creative Writing and instead studied defensive driving, dispute resolution, pediatric psychology, first aid, and culinary arts. And if I’d known that I was going to be the mother of three boys, I would have paid more attention when my father was explaining the rules of ice hockey to me. It turns out there’s more to hockey games than shouting “Fight! Fight! Fight!” every time the players throw off their gloves and singing “We Will Rock You” whenever your team scores a goal.
And don’t get me started on all of the butt wiping I’ve done. I’m no mathematician, but I attempted to calculate approximately how many times I’ve had to change a stinky diaper. When the number reached five digits, I stopped counting….I don’t want to know anymore. The fact that I’ve changed over ten thousand diapers is shocking enough. And when you figure in how many pennies those thousands of diapers have cost us…well, that’s no small change. It’s a luxurious, five-star holiday, actually.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been in the grocery store and an older woman has glanced at my three boys, smiled sweetly at me, and said “Enjoy these years. They fly by so quickly!” Sometimes I smile back at her and say “Yes, yes they do.” Other times I’m too busy playing referee and trying to stop my kids from slaughtering each other in the middle of Walmart. When they’re begging to have everything they can get their sticky hands on in the store and my head is throbbing because I haven’t slept properly since I urinated on my very first pregnancy test, it’s hard to agree with some stranger that time is flying by. Sometimes is seems like such a struggle just to make it to bed time.
But then one day, you get an email from the local school informing you that it’s time to register your youngest child for kindergarten.
When I first opened the email, I wondered why in the hell they were sending me that email. Surely they sent it by mistake. We have at least another year until it’s time to send Ro-Ro off to big boy school. Only, we don’t. He’ll be five in May.
I read through the email again, trying to focus on the words and absorb the information. But for some reason, I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like someone had just punched me in the stomach.
The strangers in Walmart were right, I thought to myself. I should have listened. I should have slowed down. I should have savored everything just a little bit more.
Somehow, while I was trying to juggle nurturing a family and running a household, my little Ro-Ro flew right through the baby and toddler years. He’s grown into a nearly five-year-old little boy and he’s almost ready for the next big step. He won’t be with me all day long anymore, making me laugh and begging me to play Trouble or Scrabble for the hundredth time. When I walk the dog in the morning, he won’t be there holding the leash and singing the “Paw Patrol” theme song. When I go to the mailbox, he won’t be beside me, begging to pull the letters out of the post box.
I know I sound sappy. I know I seem all mushy. I know I sound like yet another mother who doesn’t want to cut the umbilical cord and wants to smother her baby boy forever. But the truth is, this is hard. Really fricking hard. I thought I’d be fine. I mean, Finn and Cal went off to school and I was okay (apart from a bit of sniffling at the school door…from me, not them…they were ecstatic). The thing is, there’s something about your last kid going off to school…something final. Something transformational that makes you feel incredibly proud and profoundly sad all at the same time.
As I arrived at the school to register Ro-Ro, I realized something that gave me my breath back. I do enjoy their years. I do cherish my time with them. We bake together constantly (and I have the hips to prove it). We read the same books over and over again. We play tons of board games and I’m the reigning queen of “Hide and Go Seek” (even though they refuse to admit it). We have pajama days where we watch movies and eat popcorn until we feel like we’re going to puke. I mean, it’s not all perfect and there are so many frustrating moments when I want to yank my blonde hair out in chunks, but we have a heck of a lot of fun around here.
So it’s official. He’s registered. My baby is off to school. And if you should see me standing at the school doors, sporting the most ridiculous pair of over-sized sunglasses that I can find and blubbering uncontrollably into a handkerchief, be kind and slip me a bottle of wine. I’m gonna need it.