Parents, Cherish The Hectic ‘Here And Now’ …Before It’s Gone Forever
Back-to-school was always a hectic season.
Buying new uniforms.
The search for school supplies.
Figuring out new bus schedules.
When the day finally came that I took those photos of my son and daughter with their backpacks on and leaving for the first day of a new school year, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Then, I went back to bed.
Summer can be rough when you are a stay-at-home mom, the way I was when my kids were in elementary school. The long summer days sometimes seemed an endless stream of bickering, nagging, lolling around like couch potatoes, and complaints of boredom (and yes, quite a bit of laughing and having fun, but that’s a topic for another essay).
That first nap when I went back to bed each year, right after 6:35 when the bus drove away on the first day of school…that nap seemed more luxurious than any other of the year.
Because It was.
It would take two, maybe even three weeks to grow used to the new bedtimes and early risings required in order to not miss what was the first stop of that early bus. We all seemed as if we were sleepwalking during those first days of each school year, living and learning and working and playing in a haze of maladjustment.
Then, as if by some kind of magic, during week two or three we’d suddenly find ourselves getting sleepy at 9 p.m. again, and find ourselves waking naturally – a minute or two or three – before the 6 a.m. alarm rang.
That is so weird, how our bodies know the alarm is about to ring. How? Are we, ourselves, a kind of clock?
If we are indeed clocks, my clock has now struck midnight. It’s always pointing to that hour of the unknown, when we never know whether good things will turn to pumpkins, or riches turn to rags. Both of my kids are past the days of school buses, and instead spend their time on college campuses. I worry about them every single day.
I no longer have to deal with clothes, as concert t-shirts and jeans are their new uniforms. Laptops are their “school supplies.” They don’t have a bus to catch; they drive themselves or catch a ride with someone whose schedule is looser – and radio playing much louder – than that of the sweet old punctual guy who drove the bus back when we lived in coastal Mississippi.
Being away from those two is my new normal.
Today my internal clock is striking midnight…always. No 6 a.m. bus alarm will ever ring for me again. My schedule now includes late nights – and days – and mornings – of wondering: Are they okay? Are they texting and driving? Or worse, drinking and driving? Are they making the most out of their classes? Are they dating the wrong people? Are they in a dangerous neighborhood? Do they need help right now?
And guess what?
I will never know the answers.
At least when your little one is handed off to someone you trust and he or she climbs the steps of that bus at 6:35, your “mom instincts” find comfort in the known. Once your kids are almost-grown, however, and your control and influence have dwindled, you can do nothing but watch as those birds fly tentatively away from the coop of home.
I will no doubt spend the rest of my life suspended at the strike of midnight, hoping from afar that those not-so-babyish-anymore birds land safely every time they take wing.
For me, it’s a clock perpetually striking, an alarm that never stops going off, and my children simply aren’t there any more. I won’t see them in person again for weeks, maybe even months. They won’t be walking up that driveway with their backpacks still on at 3:15. The cycle of worry followed by relief has grown longer. In a sense, it has grown to forever proportions.
I wish I could go back and be frustrated by summer, back to being a sleepwalker, and back to considering a nap before 7 a.m. to be one of life’s greatest luxuries.
Cherish these tiring days.