August 16, 2013
It’s that time of year again. The air is getting a slight chill in the evening and it’s a bit darker in the morning when I rise. It must be back to school season.
Indeed, the traffic is picking up in the morning. My email box is full of messages about get-to-know-you picnics we should attend, school supplies that need to be shopped for, parking lot duty requests to be considered, soccer practice schedules to be memorized, emergency contact forms to be filled out, after-school care programs to pay for, upcoming PTA fundraisers to calendar, school spirit apparel to purchase, notes from other moms asking about teacher assignments to reply to, and a myriad of carpool requests to be considered. I’ve ordered new backpacks for each boy, signed up for 3 different hot lunch programs, and done an inventory of all our fall clothes to figure out which items get handed down to the next brother in our household this year. We’ve all gotten our requisite haircuts to remove all the summer shag, because class photos are in the first weeks of school as well. And the shoes! We go through shoes faster than toilet paper in my house because each set of boy feet grow about 2 sizes per month. Zappos loves me.
For a working mom, the week before school starts each year is the most stressful week of the year. Period. Full stop.
As you might have guessed, I have 3 kids. Or rather, 3 boys. Having 3 boys feels somehow like more than just having 3 kids. Boys seem to occupy more space and energy than other beings on the planet. This year, each boy is starting a new school. So there are no set routines yet. The next few weeks will be 3 different back-to-school open house nights, 3 different morning wake-up times, 3 different return home times. There will be 3 different PTA coffees for parents. I will get to meet 3 different principals and be cajoled to volunteer for things that I have no time to do and absolutely no interest in doing. But I will dutifully sign up nevertheless. 3 different times, at 3 different schools. I am bracing myself.
And yet…. And yet, I am going to be so sad when this is all over.
Last week, my husband and I drove up to the Sierras to retrieve our two older sons from sleep away camp. After two weeks in Tahoe National Forest, I found my older two boys covered in a fine layer of silty red-brown dust. My middle son’s hair was matted into an oily, brown-powdered swirl on the top of his head, a visible reminder that the week before a rock had been dropped on his head (accidentally, I was told) by another camper. He went to camp with a clean, unbroken scalp. He returned with 4 staples on the top of his shaggy, dirty, scabbed head. I felt a bit like I was plucking my sons out of a scene from Lord of the Flies. But unlike the dark, dystopian tone of the book, my boys had not established some dictatorial new world order in the wilderness. Instead, it’s like they found their native element among the tee-pees and tents. Each exuded such a sense of joy, wonder, and ease at their surroundings that I found myself taken aback at the scene unfolding in front of me.
As I stood there watching, my older sons took my youngest on a tour of camp. They walked away, sifting for obsidian fragments in the dirt on the way to the rock climbing wall. Next year, all 3 will be here for 2 weeks during the summer. At the sight of the 3 of them exploring together, I burst into tears. In that one moment, it was as if I was outside my body looking down at my children and at my husband and myself, watching our family from above. I desperately wanted to preserve that one moment in time. I wanted to freeze it, dip it in clear lucite, and put it on my shelf to stare at and cherish for all time. Because that moment is now gone. Never before in my life have I felt the passage of time so acutely.
In less than 4 years time I will be taking my oldest to college and he’ll be gone. In 6 years, there will only be one left at home. And then he’ll be shortly on his way into the world. My family will always be my family but my sons won’t be my little boys for much longer. The time you have with your family seems like such a long road ahead of you when you bring your baby home as an infant. As the saying goes, the days seem long but the years are short. Too short.
This back to school season, I’m going to try to slow down. I don’t think "savor" is quite the right word, but I am going to be more present in the moment for sure. No need to rush it. No need to stress. It’s time to just be with my kids and be there for them. Because they are not going to be kids forever. That much is very clear to me.
Photo: Me and my youngest hiking to the top of the Sierra Butte Lookout Trail, enjoying some together time before school starts.
Featured on:Your Career
Posted by:Anne T.