I’m sure all mothers know that feeling of being at both ends of a spectrum of emotions at the same time. When you can’t wait for your baby to become more self-sufficient and less needy, for example, and yet you lament the fact that the time is going way too fast and why can’t they stay little forever. Or when your kids are hanging backwards off the couch for hours/days/weeks in the summer moaning because they have nothing to do and you long for school to start again, and then it does and you’re all going from the crack of dawn until bedtime with all of the busyness of the school year and you wish it was summer again. Or you think that these carefree kids who make fun of you for always being tired and cranky have a real thing coming when they have to start jobs and have adult responsibilities, and then those things start happening and you cry into your coffee because you know that their carefree days will never be here again and you feel so bad for them.
It’s exhausting, this “both/and” existence! And I have been over my head in it all summer.
My oldest is starting his senior year in high school! We’re (I’m) thinking and talking all the time these days about college and career ideas, and he worked two jobs this summer to save for school and life expenses, and I could just bust with pride and devastation that my tiny boy is such a man.
My youngest, who I still refer to as “the baby,” is turning three today and will be spending a little time in his nursery school classroom this morning to meet his teacher and see all the “big boy things” he’s heard about from his brothers, and I’m so thrilled for the fun he’ll have and absolutely wrecked that my baby is so big.
My exact middle boy — the one who has three older brothers and three younger brothers — is moving on to middle school this year, which means that I’ll have more kids in the big school than in the elementary school. I’m finding it very difficult to wrap my mind around this whole-family shift from a family with mostly little ones to a family with mostly big kids — I really can’t think too much about it.
I read Charlotte’s Web to the boys as I’ve done every summer for years, but only to the younger four because the big boys were always at work or doing other big-boy things. My tallest boy’s pants have a 36” inseam, and I also bought a size 3T T-rex costume as a birthday present for my dino-obsessed baby. I spend a lot of time making mental lists of the things my oldest will need for his first away-from-home living space next year while also trying to adjust to the fact that my youngest is transitioning out of his daily naps.
It’s no surprise to me at all that the day I emailed the baby’s teacher to introduce myself, which was also the day that my oldest has his senior picture taken, was the day my doctor decided it was time to start me on medication for high blood pressure.
I’ve found a certain peace in having a meticulously detailed daily to-do list, even sometimes including such minutiae as “take a shower,” “meal plan,” and “do laundry,” just so I’m reminded of the simple, normal rhythms of life and can feel a measure of control over this turbulent time. I constantly look at the enormous desk calendar I’ve started writing everything on (since the normal-sized wall calendar I’ve always preferred to techie options is no longer nearly big enough) — I check in with it frequently during the day, updating and revising our family’s goings-on as needed; it’s the first thing I look at in the morning and the last before I go to bed. Whether I’m laughing or crying — or both — with little boy stuff and/or big boy stuff, my to-do list and daily calendar keep me focused and able to care for everyone appropriately and able to get everyone where they need to be at the right times. It’s so nice to not have to worry about dropping balls as I’m constantly grappling with my emotions, and it’s strangely soothing to see all these emotionally charged things reduced to neatly organized scribbles of ink on paper.
I think so often of my mom and the other older moms I know when I’m wrung out with the intensity of coexisting happiness and sadness because of these kids and coexisting big boy things and little boy things — they all went through these kinds of things and survived, after all. Not a one of them has disappeared in a puff of exhausted smoke; not a one of them has gotten whiplash from the back and forth between emotional extremes, or spontaneously combusted from feeling everything all at once. It’s just the growing pains of motherhood, I guess! I bet a lot of you are feeling your own versions of these things as your kids go back to school — good luck to you all and be patient with yourselves!