School started without me today. For the first time in 26 years, I did not pack a school lunch and send someone off with a kiss and a prayer. There were no bookbags to check, no last minute questions like, “Don’t you need a coat? It’s raining out.” No rushed breakfasts. No August school shopping for new crayons or a cool lunchbox. Just a quiet morning, giving my husband a kiss as he left for work and enjoying a toasted English muffin with some homemade jam.
Does it feel good? Does it feel sad? To be honest, I don’t know yet. Those of you who sent your firstborn – or lastborn – to kindergarten today may have found that send-off difficult. I was not that mom. My kids tease me for not being the mom who cried when they left for school, not being the mom who arranged cool “first day of 5th grade” pictures with neat signs. We were lucky if we got a picture of each kid at all – and it was usually taken at the front door seconds before they left, with typical dim entryway lighting, shoes piled up in the corner and a bunch of random coats hanging on hooks nearby. Don’t ask me why we have winter coats hanging by the door in August…
I was always excited for my children each time they started school. I knew they were expanding their horizons beyond what I could give them. Plus, I loved it when they came home and told me about their day and we laughed or cried or complained together at the breakfast bar with an after-school snack. I also secretly (or not so secretly) enjoyed the less hectic schedule at home when my kids were in school. And I loved back-to-school shopping…especially new crayons!
Now my children are all grown. We took our daughter to a college 3 hours away this past weekend, where she started classes yesterday. All three of my children are on their own, continuing to become more responsible adults who are learning to contribute to society and make a difference in the lives of others.
So, does it feel good? Or sad? It is both. Deep down inside, I know what all parents know…we are preparing our children for this. We work hard to teach them life skills so that someday they can be successful adults who no longer need us in the same way they did at home. We appropriately push them towards independence, deeper thinking and skillful decision making. We encourage them to get along well with others and extend a hand to those in need. And then, at a time that comes faster than we expect, they are ready. No, they don’t have it all figured out – to be honest, we don’t either, right? But they have enough figured out to try flying on their own. And with our prayers supporting them and the grace of God guiding them, they will make it.
So, in spite of the twinges of sadness and the occasional tears when I walk by an empty bedroom, I am happy. Happy for them and all that life is bringing them that I could not provide. I am still that excited mom who can’t wait to hear how life is going for my kids. I still love the conversations at the breakfast bar-whenever they happen, and the text updates-whenever they come. And I am learning to be content in my new job of supporting from a distance and praying for them daily. Parenting isn’t easy at the start line, and it is not easy at the finish line either. But we can all press on, being present in each new day and new phase of life, always grateful to have the opportunity to be called “Mom”.