First Day Back! Yippee! (Sniffle Sniffle)

Third Grade Here We Come!
All the social media sites are abuzz with posts and pics about the first day of school. Shots of boys and girls in their spiffy new clothes and shiny smiles, accompanied by shouts of Hooray! and Yippee! and #firstdayofkindergarten or #mybabyisinhighschool! 

After a loooong summer with the kids underfoot, the excitement is understandable. But I couldn't help noticing there have been quite a few posts from parents feeling unhappy, depressed, even in denial, peppered with sad face emoticons and hasthags like wheredidthetimego? 

If you listen close, you can hear the chorus of Stevie Nick's song "Landslide" ringing in the minds of moms across the internet:

"Time makes you bolder. Even children get older 
And I'm getting older too" 

My oldest son started middle school this morning, so I totally get the mixed emotions. Seems like yesterday when I couldn't wait for him to start school so I could finish a hot cup of coffee and pee without an audience. Still, that first day, there was plenty of crying (his AND mine) when I finally carted him off to kindergarten. The next few school years were much more joyful–him excited to see his friends again, me high-fiving other parents as we pushed them out the door.

Then, in the blink of an eye, the kid is in sixth grade, more than halfway through his compulsory education, and there's a tiny part of me that's wishing for a few more weeks of summer so I can see more of his growing-but-not-yet-grown face. 

New shoes, new hair, new school. Yikes.

It's my own fault, really. I made the decision to have something of a "French August", putting work, chores and the real world on hold so I could I could soak up some quality with my family. We went boating, to Six Flags, Atlantic City, back-to-school shopping, even took a last minute trip to Myrtle Beach. I can't lie. There were hair-pulling moments like when the kids were Defcon 1 cranky because we'd let them stay up too late and I threatened to put them up for adoption, or when they fought nonstop in the backseat on a ten-hour drive and I found myself screaming, "Is it September yet?'  But there were also a few magic moments too.

Like when we were waiting on long lines for water slides, and all three kids had nothing to do but talk to me and I finally had all the time in the world to listen. 

Or when we were strolling a beachside boardwalk and my 11-year-old spontaneously grabbed my hand and held it as we walked. 

And there was the night my 8 year-old son decided to postpone the mini-golf outing he'd been promised because his brother and I were too tired to come, and he said, 'It just wouldn't be the same without the whole family.' 

By taking a break from the schedules and chaos of real life, I was rewarded with what really matters.

So I was prepared to feel a little sad this morning as the kids returned to school and I to work, especially with my oldest checking off that next milestone of his, middle school. He agreed to let me walk him to the bus stop ("just the first day") and kiss him before anyone else showed up. I thought for sure he would shoo me away once the other kids arrived, but, surprisingly, he wanted me to stay. He told me he was nervous and excited and nervous and excited, then the bus rolled up and it was time for goodbye. I stepped back, giving my little man his space, his wings to fly, letting him act cool and cut the cord from his Mom. But then he did something that really made me want to cry, only not in the way I expected.

He turned around and gave me a great big hug, right there in full view of the bus driver and all the other middle schoolers. Then he hopped aboard and they drove away.

So, today, my hashtag is feeling happy. I'm happy for the wonderful young man my son is becoming, and happy that I get to be here to witness it. We may not be able to stop time completely, but we can make the most of the time we've got.

I've got 5 more hours until the kids come home. I'm definitely not counting the minutes, but for once, I'm not dreading them either.

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