I know we thought we would hit this age and magically it would be easier. We wouldn’t be as sleep deprived, our kids would communicate and tell us when they needed to pee and eat and to hold them when they’re sad. Bedtime wouldn’t be (so) laborious, and the idea of waiting would make some sense. We wait, so diligently, for the empathy teaching and emotion coaching to pay off in these kids who know their hearts and minds, tell us their feelings. Thinking all of that would make it feel easier.
I thought that around year five of parenting, we would have a clue. That I’d feel tougher when they cry, or that it wouldn’t sting and hurt and awake the Mama bear any time they weren’t included in the playground game. But here I sit in the gym at school with my kids running wild, all of us Mamas with our hands over full, and looking at each other with our big kids and our little kids and our ‘wtf are we doing for lunch’ faces thinking “do you have it together? Does she have it together? I don’t have it together.” because we’re all still a little adrift. A lot adrift.
I thought when I hit 30 we’d have it financially figured out. My kids would be in sports, theatre, clubs and the like. I thought we would be a two car family who was keeping up. I didn’t anticipate having to carefully plan every meal to fit the budget, pick and choose the extra curriculars only as they fit with our odd jobs’ incomes and random selling of stuff we purge.
We looked forward to age 30 the way I used to look at age 16. So old. So grown. So mature. So ready. When I was 9 I remember praying with every fiber of my heart to just have God give me a vision of what I would look like at 16. Would I be as pretty as my sister? Would I have a boyfriend? I’d drive, and eat fast food with friends at lunch, I would be mature, and cool, and smart, and attend every football game. Then, at 25 with two babies, I dreamed of 30. Then my kids will be in school, I’ll be having all the time in the world. I’ll pursue my dreams, and feel so fulfilled. I’ll have written a book and be a success. I’ll have gotten my ‘body back’ and be hotter than before. “God, please, please, show me how hot and amazing I am at 30!”
Now at 30 we carousel our children from activity, to class, and lead them all because it’s cheaper. All the Mama’s, exchanging glances over these heads that almost reach our chins, still without a clue as the kids ask us hard questions that stop us in our tracks. Questions that make me rethink my beliefs, daily.
The homeschool Moms, all huddled with our snacks, and bags, curriculum overflowing, and doubts tumbling out as we reassure ourselves that we can stop anytime, and that this is just going till they’re done. We’re in deep. We’ve created classrooms at home, and overscheduled to the point of exhaustion just to be sure we never succumb to the stereotype that our kids aren’t socialized.
The Mom’s with kids in school fretting over how their child is faring, being treated, adjusting, and; are they missing us? Waking early, rushing to drop off, fearing they haven’t packed them enough or enticing enough lunches. They are rushing off to jobs and meetings, expectations that they have their head in the game, and not be balancing the anxiety of The First Day of School. Or they are dropping off and going home. The home feeling changed, a first born gone and subsequent kids adrift and in need of extra attention, playmates, work for you. Or an empty home. The weight of all that you ‘should’ do with this time pulling in every direction. Productivity is your assignment and report card to your family. “You were home alone all day? What did you do?” as culture signs you up for mimosas, brunches, a new exercise regime, and a spotless home. When really, all that would serve your heart, is a long break after years of serving.
We’re all there. Packing lunches, fretting over our children’s futures. They no longer can’t tell us how they feel, but they often choose not to. It feels harder, and bigger, than when they cried and we bounced them to sleep. It feels like the tool box is empty and all we have are open hands, faces, and not enough time.
I see you and hear you, Elementary Mom. The new normal and eventual balance will swing into place. As we watch our children make these transitions, we can follow their lead. Break down when needed, fall into the arms of the person or people who love us most, and trust our own growth. Or, see where change needs to happen and adopt it with resilience as the routines shift. We aren’t alone.
The months tick on, September leaves us behind (thank God), and Fall hits it’s full stride just as we do to. Children who now know the routine, Mom’s who are shaking out and into their new roles.
Mostly, I remember, that the tool box is still full. Big kids still need rocked. School aged kids still want to lay in bed together and snuggle in deeper. Weekends mean more to us, time means more to us. October is here, and the sigh of relief that September has passed is palpable. Fall has arrived, and so will we, as motherhood keeps on moving on.