Little Miss Independents

A funny thing happened this September: School started. Ok, maybe it’s not that funny or even unusual since this school thing happens every September. For me, however, it was unusual. All three of my kids were in school. There I go again, being dramatic. Fine – the youngest started preschool and is only there two mornings a week but still, that’s two mornings of (wait for it….) no kids! You would think I’d love it and go absolutely bonkers with joy, as I have always imagined I would. Instead I had the opposite reaction. I decided I needed another baby.

See what I mean? I’m so dramatic! No worries, dear readers, I am not going to have that fourth baby. Not only did my husband nearly pee himself by laughing so hard at the idea, but my memory and uterus had a brief conversation and decided no more humans could reside in there. I tried to convince them all, memory, uterus, and husband, otherwise but failed. My heart wasn’t entirely into the idea, anyway, but as I realized I was entering a new era of motherhood I panicked. My kids are growing up and more independent without me being ready for that. Having another baby seemed rather logical, as it’s what I know and have been doing for the past 8 years.

My oldest, now in third grade, had decided last year that my presence waiting in line for school to start was not required and dismissed me from that task. I didn’t mind as I had my middle daughter, now in first grade, to attend to. The first week of school was fine as she still wanted me around. Then the second week of school came a new request: “Can you just drop us off at the drop off circle? You don’t need to walk us.”

Uh, say what now? Well, ok then. I mean, I enjoy walking them into school and screaming my goodbyes to my oldest as she dashes away as fast as she can from me. Heck, I feel lucky when I get the car to a complete stop before she hops out to escape. I like chatting with the other moms in the first grade line as we wait for the teacher to come get the kids. Clearly my kids are ready for me to be less present. I’m so proud, I forced myself to think.

At least I had my youngest, who would start preschool and be an absolute wreck like her big sisters were. I remembered how they had screamed and cried when I left, the crazy strength they demonstrated as they wrapped their little arms my neck or legs when I tried to leave that made prying them off so difficult. How loved I felt then, how important! I looked forward to my toddler’s breakdown. It would validate my existence.

As you can see, I did not expect her to race into the classroom without so much as a backward glance at me. I stood there for a moment watching other kids (and a mom) cry over goodbyes before slowly walking to my car. I came home to an empty house that was so quiet. Too quiet. I ate breakfast, did some reading, tidied up a bit, and kept a constant eye on the clock. Never before had two hours passed so slowly. I was at her preschool 15 minutes early, tapping my foot on the sidewalk, waiting for her. She raced out to greet me with a smile on her face and said, “I had fun! But I missed you all day, Mama.” Heart. Melting!

Then the last straw came. “Mom, can we take the bus now? You don’t need to drive us.”

UH, SAY WHAT NOW? I can’t even drive them to school?! For two days I refused the request by pretending we were running late and therefore they couldn’t possibly ride the bus. Sorry! Then they called my bluff by making sure they were on time for the bus. They actually grabbed their backpacks and ran to the bus stop without even saying goodbye to me! I threw my toddler in her stroller and ran after them. I’m sure it was quite a sight to see, two girls running while occasionally looking over their shoulders to check on me as I was yelling, “Wait! Wait!” and pushing a stroller carrying a toddler with one sock on. I got to the stop just in time to see them hop on the bus and no, I did not get a wave.

So yeah, is it any wonder I decided I needed a baby?

As parents we want our kids to become independent. It’s our goal to make them self-sufficient, confident, good people. When they demonstrate that they are on this path, it’s like a positive job review. We’re meeting our goals, we’re doing something right. I’ve always wanted this for my kids but I never really stopped to think of what it would mean for me when they didn’t need me as much.

As parents we are also told that we need to maintain our own identities. “Keep up with your interests, have a life outside of your kids,” the experts tell us. I suppose I haven’t done the best job of this. This is the time when I have to start thinking about me again, remembering what I used to do in spare time before the girls came. It seems like it should be exciting, getting to explore new interests, but it’s a bit daunting and hard to change the mindset of “all kids, all the time.” I can focus on getting lunches made, being sure diapers are changed and naps are taken, and making sure homework is done. I haven’t focused on myself much lately and it’s uncomfortable.

Now we’re entering October and I’ve become more adjusted to the changes. I’m volunteering at school in the classrooms during my free time, which oddly enough my daughters love. I’m not sure why it’s cool for me to hang out in class with them and not on the playground but whatever. My toddler had two days of crying before entering preschool so I felt the love and am now happy when she races in with excitement (although a goodbye would be nice, too). The older two decided the bus wasn’t all that great so I get to drop them at school (but no walking them to class). I’ve decided I don’t need another baby. I just needed time to get used to these changes.


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