Monica: I’m fine! I just, I’m thinking about how it’s the end of an era.
Rachel: Oh, all right. But y’know I gotta say, I don’t think six years counts as an era.
Monica: An era is defined as a significant period of time. Now, it was significant to me, maybe it wasn’t significant to you!
It wasn’t the first day of kindergarten that got me.
I held my own that day. I helped my baby boy, who is now five, select the perfect outfit (denim shorts paired with a stegosaurus t-shirt). We stood in the bathroom together staring at the same reflection in the mirror while I sprayed his hair with water and brushed it ever so slightly to the side. He tucked a stuffed animal inside his new Paw Patrol backpack; I filled the matching thermos with ice water. On our way out, I knelt on the floor of our laundry room and drew a tiny heart on his hand to match mine.
“Anytime you feel sad or scared, you can look at the heart and remember that I love you, okay?”
He smiled down at me, and then asked me to re-do his heart because it wasn’t perfectly centered. I rolled my eyes, amused more than irritated. He gets it from his momma.
I held that same sharpie-tattooed hand from the car to the classroom, and played it cool with a simple hug and kiss before he joined circle time. Three hours and twenty minutes later when the teacher called, “Everett! You’re dismissed!” and his little head popped out from the single file line, even then, I controlled the tears pooling in my eyes. Not a single one slipped down my cheeks. My blush remained intact.
What I’m trying to say is: I handled the first day of kinder like a champ.
The soccer schedule is the thing that undid me.
You see, when we signed up for soccer, I assumed practice would be one night a week and games would be on Saturdays. Hi, I’m Ashlee and I’m new here. Surely, they ease children into these types of things, I thought to myself. After all, the kids are only five! Barely out of preschool! Look how small they are!
On the first day of kindergarten, however, I quickly learned soccer was a more arduous commitment, even for five-year-olds. There would be not one but two soccer practices each week, one on Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus a game every Friday at 5 p.m. Poof! Just like that—three nights a week gone to soccer. I was distraught.
“THREE nights a week?!” I wailed to my husband. “This is insane! It’s too much!”
My husband, who grew up playing every sport known to man, shrugged his shoulders. His calmness irritated me.
The e-mails started piling up in my inbox, along with a mountain of paperwork on the kitchen counter. PTA meetings. School fundraisers. Library permission slips. School cell phone policy. Emergency forms. Movie night, the harvest festival, a field trip to the pumpkin patch. Add the soccer schedule on top of that: kick-off BBQ and picture day, Chipotle fundraiser night, all the practices and games.
Would you like to be a team parent?
Would you like to be a room mom?
Would you like to be a chaperone at the pumpkin patch?
Would you like to give a dollar a day to the PTA?
Would you like to donate batches of homemade playdough?
In the span of four days, I was asked all of these questions via email or text or paperwork in Everett’s backpack. And I could not help but wonder: What just happened here?
“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” I whispered to my husband at Back-to-School Night where the PTA president encouraged us to Stay Informed and Stay Engaged.
It was only last week that our calendar consisted of exactly two things: one swim lesson and a play date. I know summer is a different ballgame, but to be quite honest, summer and the school year have felt very similar these past five years. During the school year we get dressed a couple days a week, and during the summer we mostly run around naked in the backyard (the children, not me).
But this? School enrollment in a room that looks like the DMV? A bell that rings at 8 a.m. sharp? I rarely put on a bra before 9—they ain’t playin’ at public school. One only needs to consult the tardies and truancy sections in the official school guide to see how serious our life just got.
(Is this why people homeschool? I think I get it now.)
Once I came home with the Back-To-School packet and the soccer schedule, our empty calendar filled up like a winning Bingo card. I sat at the kitchen table with a sharpie in my hand scribbling notes in the margins because the boxes were too full. I used to be the gatekeeper of our family schedule; now I’m just the scribe.
I know you elementary school moms are nodding your heads because you all warned me this would happen. You told me I’d be nothing more than a chauffeur. You told me it was crazy. I didn’t believe you until now. But you were right.
This is the end of an era.
This is the end of lazy mornings on the couch, sipping coffee while the kids watch Paw Patrol. This is the end of us wearing pajamas until 10am, the end of us having the train museum all to ourselves at 11:15 on a regular Tuesday. This is the end of weekday birthday parties, of impromptu play dates, of October vacations. This is the end of our flexibility, our spontaneity and freedom. Sure, we’ll have weekends and summers. But school is in session 180 days a year and it kind of feels like our life just got sawed in half.
I will miss the slow mornings most of all. My kids play best in the morning—their behavior typically correlates to the time of day, with their best behavior in the am hours and their worst behavior in the pm hours. Usually after breakfast, the boys head to their room and play for an hour or two by themselves, building train tracks or houses made from Magna Tiles. The sunlight bursts through the blinds creating zebra stripes on the floor, which is right where they play like a couple of cats.
I have wished for this day to come many, many times over the past five years. I cannot wait for these kids to be in school, I’ve thought when I am out of patience by the end of the second cup of lukewarm coffee. I have looked to this day and this phase with excitement and longing, especially on the days when parenting has been laborious and exhausting (every day?).
But now that it’s here, I can’t seem to stop myself from thinking the grass was greener on the other side. I already miss our life from last week. I already miss our empty calendar, our independence and space. This is motherhood, over and over again: not ever knowing how sweet a period of time is until it’s behind you.
We’re heading into a new phase of life quicker than I realized, like a bullet train with no plans to stop. I’ve already donated markers, linked our bank account to the PTA auto-withdrawal, and offered to photograph field trips. Everett is making new friends left and right. My husband volunteered to be the assistant coach for the soccer team. I am learning to put on a bra before 9 a.m. (reluctantly).
This is a whole new world for our family.
Part of me is excited for a fresh beginning, a new routine and rhythm, for all the ways my firstborn is about to grow. But the other part of me needs to acknowledge and sit with the sadness for a minute. Even though it lasted only five years, this is, no doubt, the end of an era. These five years at home, Monday-Friday, for better and for worse, have been a significant period of time. Together we’ve had around 1,300 days of waking up slowly and choosing our own adventures. May I never forget what a privilege it’s been.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go ask Pinterest how to make homemade playdough.
P.S. Head over to our giveaway page and enter to win a signed Laura Lea Balanced cookbook!