Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Back to School

Yesterday was M's first day back at preschool. I gave him extra hugs in the morning, then took K to the park with her little girlfriends, where I promptly announced that I was thoroughly depressed about the whole thing.

"Um," said very concerned friend, clearly trying to understand my emotional outburst, "this isn't his first year, you know."

No, it's not his first year. But it is the beginning of another year. I feel the passage of time as though it were traffic on the interstate, and I'm standing right in the middle. This was the one and only summer when the kids were two and four, when they had those little tiny sweaty hands in mine nearly constantly and the best entertainment chalked up to lazy afternoons in the pool and cleverly spotted work trucks.

I was at dinner with friends the other night when this topic came up, and I silenced the table with my (slightly white wine induced) monologue about time, how precious this time is and how quickly it's passing, how I try to enjoy every last minute because I know in the end I will never, ever have time to enjoy it enough.

"Um," said another perplexed friend, directing her words to the rest of the table, "most moms get burned out when they stay home all the time and never get a break." Then they all looked pointedly at me as if to figure out (a) what was wrong with me, or (b) what I was hiding.

Let me be clear: I'm not that mom. If for nothing more than the countless muttered (okay, in total honesty, sometimes clearly shouted for all to hear) curse words, I'd have been gong-ed off the Mom Show a long time ago. Just this week I claimed to have two #1 all-time pet peeves: stepping on my feet and repeating statements. Which really are just minor annoyances in the grand scheme of things. Plus I muddled my way through the following:

M: I'm all done with lunch.
Me: Okay. Do you want to take the rest of that carrot stick with you?
M: (Dramatic sigh) But I'm all done with lunch.
Me: That's fine. I was just asking.
M: But I do want to eat it.
Me: Okay. Go ahead and eat it.
M: Why do I have to eat it?
Me: I never said you had to eat it. I said you could eat it. And hey, I forgot to get your plum out of the freezer. Did you still want it?
M: But I was going to eat the carrot.
Me: You can eat both. Or neither.
M: Why do I have to eat them both?
Me: You don't. I was just offering.
M: But I DO want to eat it.
Me: The carrot stick or the plum?
M: (another dramatic sigh) I don't know.

I still have no earthly idea what was going on there. And seriously, getting through lunch with your four-year-old shouldn't be a Mensa challenge. I feel many times like I'm failing motherhood, in big and little ways.

But the thing is, motherhood isn't a reality show, and it's not a Mensa test. It's just motherhood. There are no gold medals, no prizes, and no right answers with confetti and balloons. In the end, there's nothing at all, aside from, hopefully, a fairly well-adjusted (or well-therapied) adult. All those little mementos--the crayon drawings, the hot glued sea creature, the tiny little newborn socks--won't ever compare to the actual moment. So I try to remember that if I can't take it with me, I might as well enjoy it while it's here: insanity, sentimentality, big and little events, confusing circuitous lunch discussions, hastily glossed over curses, and the simple joy (or, if you were K and didn't see it, raging tantrum) of a plain old garbage truck.

So M had his first day of preschool yesterday. Again. And it was hard to let him go, and joyful to pick him up. To see him playing with new friends, to watch him trying new things, to see his new room and workbook and cubby and move with him through the traffic of life. Maybe if I feel myself moving with it, it won't sound quite so loud.

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