My youngest starts kindergarten in earnest today. She’s been to the classroom, has met her teacher, and has gone in for evaluations, but today is her first real day. I’m notoriously unsentimental. I don’t get baby hungry and I welcome each new phase in my kids’ life. But this one is tripping me up a bit. I guess because she’s my last baby.
I don’t feel sad, exactly. I am excited to have time to myself while the kids are at school. How will I spend it? People keep asking. I don’t know. I’ll probably waste it. And squander it. And fritter it away. I can’t wait.
I love my older kids. I mean, I really like them and enjoy them. I don’t even, necessarily, miss them as babies.
But it is the end of an era, and I guess I feel a little old.
I didn’t feel old when I turned 40 a couple months ago. It’s not even Ellen starting kindergarten today that gave me pause. It was last night when we discovered that Ellen has 2 loose teeth. Granted, it’s a little soon for loose teeth, but her sister yanked a cell phone out of Ellen’s mouth last spring and now the teeth are loose. Don’t ask.
The point is, she’s going to lose that perfect tiny smile. It’s going to get gappy and huge teeth are going to pop through. She’ll elongate and thin out like my 15-year-old. I’m so proud of him. He’s the tallest in our family. It feels good to see your kids grow. I totally take pride in it: not the tooth yanking part, but all the rest. I’m not a mom who wants her kids to stay little. Watching them grow has been, for me, even more rewarding than cuddling a little swaddled bundle.
But when each of my other three kids went to school there was always still a little toddler waiting in the wings. My wings are empty! It’s startling. It startles me because with Ellen out the door I just moved past everything I ever imagined, played, pretended, and expected about being a mom. No one plays house with pretend kids who are at school all day–I sure didn’t. I was all about the dolls, bottles, and blankets.
I am still occupied doing some really hard-core mothering every day, intensely, with all my kids. It’s not the same type of all-consuming, strength-sucking, sleep-depriving dance you do with little kids and babies. But it’s still pretty intense. In a way it’s less glamorous. You aren’t the mom of a baby anymore. A baby is accessory-like. It’s still kind of about you. You wear it and dress it and talk about it and carry it every where.
Now my kids are just other people I live with, take care of, and help. I’m like, living with all these other people now. It’s interesting. I like it. But, yeah. It’s the end of an era. There are many specifics about that era (diapers, nap schedules, spit up, potty training, tantrums) that I will not miss. But there’s a certain coziness to it. I’ll miss that.
Ah, well. Someone has to be the last baby. It may as well be Ellen. I can’t go on having kids indefinitely. That is, decidedly, not for me. Knock on wood, and all that. I hope you make it through those rough baby years happily enough to feel just a little nostalgic when they’re over but I’m not going to sit here and tell you to just enjoy it. Because I’ll tell you what, I’m going to be enjoying the hours from 8am to 11:40 enough for both of us.