I cried every day for a week leading up to Audra’s third birthday. I couldn’t help but think of all the things that she had already moved on from. All of the firsts that had now become lasts.
So when a friend posted that this would be hard week for us mamas, whose kids are graduating from elementary school this week, my first thought was – ‘Nah, I’m okay with this. I won’t be sad. I was fine when Ethan moved on to junior high two years ago. No biggie.’
But then something hit me and and I sunk a little deeper down into the feelings it evoked.
Oh no. She was right.
When I am deep in the busy flow of my life, these things can pass me by. It’s like I’m gliding just under the surface – unobstructed and free. I’m sure it allows me to do what I need to do – but also leads to the occasional crash of emotions hitting me like a tidal wave.
Audra is leaving the childhood years of elementary school behind. Oh, tidal wave.
Even in my own mind, the end of grade six marks the outer timeline I associate with being my childhood years. Leaving elementary school was the threshold to a whole new world.
So, if I had to sum up what’s brewing under the surface for me right right now, it’s this:
I’m excited for what she is moving on to.
But my heart mourns for what she’s leaving behind.
Deeply feeling my life and keeping what matters at the forefront have always been priorities for me. So when I stopped and realized that this was a milestone – our baby girl is moving on and leaving elementary school – my heart got heavy. It’s such a happy-sad. It reminds me – yet again- of the constant process of letting go that underlies life as a parent.
Why does life have to move so fast?
Images flicker through my mind. Audra as a baby, snuggled up cheek to cheek. Watching her fiery personality express itself even then – the strawberry birthmark on her forehead turning red whenever she was upset. Her sleeping warm body next to mine, curled in to me like a question mark. Sweet baby smells.
Audra as a toddler – the epitome of the ‘I can do it myself child’ – picking her own wild and colourful outfits, toting her favourite stuffed monkey, Mimzey everywhere. Wearing sunglasses upside down – simply because thats how she liked them. Using our dog Casey as her cuddling place when she was mad. Singing, dancing, copying her older brother. Dressed as a princess, all while playing in the mud. Her little sweet face peering out at me from her preschool window every morning as I drove away.
Why does time have to move so fast?
Memories – like an explosion in my mind, moving faster and faster. Our girl – agile as a monkey herself, determined, creative, strong. Watching her learn to ride a bike – do monkey bars, back walkovers, always focused to win. Her huge heart showing itself, always. Audra and Ethan, the best of friends. Playmates and defenders both. Our children. But maybe not ours to keep…
Our life is evolving.
The sweet pudgy hands are gone. My baby wears shoes bigger than mine now.
Yesterday, a dad in my practice shared that for her birthday, his 4 year old daughter asked for rainbows. Even my heart smiled at that one.
These days Audra asks for makeup, designer clothes, and electronics. She wants to watch movies with her dad that are too scary for me to enjoy. Her social calendar is more full than mine. And yes, boys are definitely on the radar.
Our daughter is growing up. Moving on to junior high. I’m one part excited and two parts apprehensive and protective. Junior high – when friendships change, boyfriends become a bigger reality, and awkwardness can be the theme of the day. I remember – with a shudder -how self conscious I was.
I still have the journals I wrote from Audra’s age – as a matter of fact, the end of grade six was when I truly started journalling my thoughts, worries and insecurities. (I have to admit – I’ve resisted reading them. At the time, I remember thinking that one day, if I had a daughter, they would help me remember what it feels like to be a teenager. But now that I’m there, I’m not sure I want to…)
A teenager. *almost* (Two of them in the house!) Oh boy, deep breaths. How did we get to this so soon?
Can’t we go back – even just for a little while?
Sometimes I wish that life didn’t move in just one direction- that we could flash back to our highlight roll – living those moments over and over. I know we’d pick and choose, colouring everything in a rosy glow – just like we do in our memories.
I certainly remember how hard it was. As a matter of fact, I think the greatest success of our lives will be that we got through our kids’ early years – intact, sane, and with a marriage that grew stronger. We came through that together, with daily proof that our children were growing up to be the wonderful, conscientious human beings that we hoped them to be.
Watching our kids grow has been the greatest joy – and the greatest challenge. Maybe, yet again, evidence of life’s duality: highs and lows, happiness and sadness, fleeting moments that feel like yesterday and forever ago at the same time.
Being a mom is hard. Messy, unpredictable, and sometimes heart-breaking – but glorious, exciting and life-affirming, too.
So for now, I will enjoy the moments that present themselves. All of the new and more grown up ways we get to enjoy our kids. I still get to lie next to Audra at night to hear about her day, smiling every time I see her 10 year old monkey, Mimzey down in the kitchen, where she sometimes leaves her after coming down in the morning. Signs that childhood still lingers for a while yet.
And since I have yet to find a way to freeze time, I will go through this milestone with as much grace as I can muster. One look at our proud daughter, surrounded by friends – and we will celebrate with her, knowing that one day, she too may understand the depths of emotions that run under the surface for parents at these moments.
And for those other yet-to-come milestones – big and small – I will be quietly whispering this mantra to myself: