From Beaches to Backpacks
It is a perfect week at the beach. There is no where we need to be and no time we must be there. My boys, 2 and 5, can be remarkably well-behaved when there are no demands on them. They are secretly little angels! I can be a remarkably calm and patient momma, too. I am unplugged (mostly) and my attention is on the boys, my husband, and extended family that has joined us for this blissful summer vacation. My sweet boys are still happy to snuggle into the cocoon of family. They are full of sparkle and curiosity and mischief. I watch them digging in the sand together, playing “stuck in muck” with plastic animals along the water’s edge. I watch my oldest get braver and braver as he conquers the waves with his dad and discovers the joy of boogie boarding, which he declares “my new funnest sport.” Naps are set aside in favor of more beach time, bedtimes are pushed back for the Olympics, and then the boys sleep an extra hour in the morning.
Vacations always end too soon and too abruptly. One day I am sitting in the surf with my little one on my lap, listening to his squeals as the waves wash over us. The next I’m sitting in mountains of laundry. My laptop is up and running, with emails to answer and writing to be done. The boys are already testing and picking and doing what brothers do. The lack of sleep and disruption to their routine have caught up with them. My patience is already shorter. There are appointments and chores and did I mention school starting?
Things are about to change, big-time. Beyond these few hectic post-beach weeks, our very first first day of school is on the horizon, close enough that we are counting the days and hurrying to make sure new sneakers are in the closet and new lunchboxes are on the counter. In one fell swoop my husband will start a new semester, my 5-year-old will start kindergarten, and my 2-year-old will transition to a brand-new daycare center. Wheeeesh! We’re stepping into a new routine and, for my almost-kindergartener, a whole new world. It will be months before we see the beach again.
I can picture the first day of school. He’ll be walking away from me this time, the carefully-selected backpack hoisted like a turtle shell on his narrow back, a familiar head of dark curls peeking out over the top. Out of the family cocoon, into a swirl of friends and teachers. He’ll learn from books and chalkboards and kids on the playground. (Please, oh, please, don’t teach him about guns or sexy stuff or the f-word just yet, okay?) We’ll wake at 7, push-push-push to get those teeth brushed, get that face washed, hurry up and eat breakfast already, so that the oldest is ready to climb onto the bus at 8. His little brother will be left behind and then off to his own new school. Come home. Have your snack. Change your clothes. Dinner to make. Baths to take. Start again tomorrow. Did I remember to hug you? To tell you how very much I love you?
There are moments I bemoan change, particularly the simple fact that every day my boys are one step farther from my womb and one step closer to being men, off into the world without their momma. That part of change is not easy to embrace. At the same time, is there anything more amazing than watching your child grow into someone new right before your eyes? To wonder who they will become, who you will meet next, knowing that whoever it is you already love him in the deepest, oldest part of your soul?
In spite of the inevitable stresses and the loss of freedom for our family, in spite of the bittersweet of my baby stepping onto a school bus, I think I’m just as excited for the start of the school year as my 5-year-old. Change keeps life interesting and it definitely keeps me on my toes. With every change a new window opens, full of new opportunities and new experiences to make our lives richer, and new challenges to stretch us. We lose one thing, but we gain another.
A new season, a new routine, new friends and new teachers…this transition is bursting with new possibilities alongside the promise of familiar traditions. We’ve got three months of chlorine and humidity and watermelon under our belts. Now I see apple picking and football games and Halloween around the corner. Crisp fall air and kids in fleece. There are new friends to make and teachers to get to know. There will be that day my kindergartener comes home and proudly declares “Reading is my new funnest activity!” My boys will grow and change in amazing ways over the next year, ways I can only begin to imagine and that I cannot wait to see.
This is it. Let the school year begin.
ABOUT ELLIE: She is a psychologist turned mom who muses about motherhood and marriage in a multiracial family at Musing Momma. She lives in the northeast with her exceptionally patient husband and their two adorable but very mischievous little boys.