I’m not the kind of mom who knows what to do at any given moment. You’ve seen her, I’m sure: the hip, together mom who looks great and says the right thing all the time. She’s the same kind of mom who always packs tissues, wholesome snacks, handiwipes, and an age-appropriate activity for her child to do, no matter the occasion. No, I’m more like the I-hope-I-brushed-my-hair-before-I-left-the-house kind of mom, the kind who frantically looks for a used Dunkin’ Donuts napkin when my son’s nose starts running. More often than not, I’m flying by the seat of my pants and hoping that they’re not ripped, mismatched or stained. (Just in case you were wondering, the pants are OK about one time out of ten, give or take.)
So with my son starting kindergarten today, you can imagine how together I feel. Oh, his backpack is ready to go, and he’s got the prerequisite new pair of jeans and crayons from our back-to-school shopping trip. But I am pretty much a mess.
I didn’t expect to feel this way, you see. I really liked school as a kid, and I’m looking forward to all the new things my son will do, from reading to climbing the rope in gym class. (Uh, do they still do that, by the way?) That’s why I was surprised when I spent last week all weepy and puffy-eyed, going through his baby pictures while my husband humored me by agreeing to every outlandish claim I made about our son. (I knew I’d gone too far when Joe yelled, “Yes, yes, I’m sure he’ll be able to climb the rope faster than a half-crazed circus chimp!” )
But the truth is, I’m just plain sad to see my boy leaving toddlerhood—with it’s impossibly tight hugs around the neck and breathy, whispered secrets before bedtime. Being a parent is such a strange push-pull: You spend each day wanting your child to grow up, while at the same time willing them to stay young. To me, it often feels like you’re in a state of half-mourning and half-celebrating with each new phase. But that’s life, after all. And I have to say, the joy of watching them grow makes it all worth it.
Anyway, wish me luck. Alex is fine and was ready to get on the bus at 5 a.m. I still haven’t brushed my hair and I have a ketchup stain on my shorts. Other than that, I think I just might be ready, too.
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.