I just dropped Brynn off for her first day of preschool. I was feeling emotional in the car on the way when Jim called my cell. I immediately felt a huge lump in my throat. Isn't it funny how you can be right on the verge of losing it, and all it takes is a nice gesture to send you right over the edge? He called to talk to Brynn and wish her a good first day of school, which was so sweet I cried all the way to the by-pass.
Outside her room, we hung up her back-pack and stood in line waiting for 9am. I thought about how I smashed her finger in the stroller out in the parking lot and forgot my camera. No Awesome Mom awards for me today. I wished she knew even one other child in class but reminded her how good she is now at making new friends. Then I thought about baby-talking and dandelions and started to feel that lump in my throat again. How many clover bouquets have I put in tiny vases? And how many more will there be? Will they just disappear one day like the baby-talking without even saying goodbye? And then the door was open and her teacher was saying, "Good Morning Brynn." She didn't want to go at first and I held her for a minute. "Give me a big, strong one... okay, now you're ready." Somehow I smiled, then off she went, and I saw all our mornings at home together go with her right through that door. And right now all I can think is, I'm so glad she still calls it puh-sketti.
My mother-in-law will sometimes say wistfully, "Where does the time go?" I don't think anyone really knows where it goes, but I might know how. Not fast, like we always say with the benefit of hindsight. I think it actually goes like the turtle in the storybook, very slowly. A little bit every day, down some invisible drain. You don't feel it much, which is what makes it so dangerous. Because you could go for years not noticing, not paying attention, and then realize a whole huge chunk of it fell away when you weren't looking. When you were doing the dishes, cleaning the house, running the never-ending errands, or working on other things. Or maybe it slipped away while you were actually taking care of the child... because we can really lose a lot in the routine and the hard of it.
But here is the thing that makes the first day of preschool easier on this Mama: I know I'm not missing it. I'm just not. I'm so thankful for the words of older, wiser moms in my life... who let me know very early on that the biggest mistake I could make in this adventure would be to wish it away. To wish they would just be walking or talking already, or be potty-trained or good cleaner-uppers. But once a milestone like that comes along, you can never go back to the way it was before. I think if we could just grab onto this truth as moms it would make the hard days so much easier to navigate. Though I fail a lot, I have determined not to let these times slink away unnoticed. The first time Brynn pronounced "excited" correctly instead of saying "upcited" made me so sad, because I knew she would never say it the baby way again. So I pasted upsided tenderly into my mental scrapbook and started looking around for the next precious thing. Because no matter what the mothers of teenagers say, I know there are more to come. Maybe those moments just become better hiders as the babies grow up.
And so on Brynn's first day of preschool I renew my promise to engage these hard milestones, to feel them (even the hurt of them) and find the joy in the growing and the growing up. All the while pondering these things in my heart. So if you see me this week in the hall outside Mrs. Ballard's room wiping my eyes... don't worry. That's just me, not missing it.