September 1, 2015

Farewell, Preschool Mom.

I won’t get the empty house.

Stay-at-home mothers talk about the silence, the stillness, the freedom, the joy, and the little bit of longing they feel when the school bus drives off and they find themselves alone at home for the first time.

I’m a working mother. Evie and Felix are daycare kids. I’ve been packing lunches and writing names on jackets since they were in diapers. Our house is empty on most weekdays, and only the cats are home to enjoy the stillness. The transition from preschool to kindergarten shouldn’t be a big deal.

And yet, it is.

When that little boy with the lion keychain on his backpack walks to the bus stop with his big sister, a phase of my life is officially over. Preschool Mom is done.

As children grow up in phases, so do their parents. Our stages aren’t as outwardly obvious, and they overlap if you have multiple kids, but they are still distinct.

8 years ago, I became Baby Mom. Baby Mom was sleepless, bloated, and hormonally unstable. 

She gets to nap. Why can't I?

She aspired to be tender, nurturing, and ready to change a diaper on virtually any surface. Some days, she nailed it. Some days, she cried because she couldn’t unfold the stroller and worried she was unfit to do any of this. Every day was part miracle, part disaster, and a literal mess. The day I realized I wasn’t Baby Mom anymore, I noticed a woman in line at Chipotle absently shifting her weight from one foot to the other, as if she were rocking an invisible baby to sleep. I used to stand like that, until one day I didn’t.

Toddler Mom was a different character. She always carried baby wipes, backup clothes, and Goldfish crackers. She sprinkled words like “binky” and “blankie” into her vocabulary without a hint of irony, and she could name all the Backyardigans and several lesser-known dinosaur species. Weekend plans were arranged around nap schedules. Restaurant meals were a race against time and the inevitable “I’m done with this high chair” moment, often punctuated by the emphatic throwing of a sippy cup.

Toddler Mom didn't have time for long hair.

Just as I became Evie’s Preschool Mom, Felix was born and Baby Mom was back on the scene: a little older, a little more competent, and utterly exhausted. These were my lost years. I look at pictures of our family and I intellectually know that I was there. But I can’t remember how we did it, how we juggled it all and cared for these needy little people and did our jobs and seemed to have fun in spite of it all.

I barely remember this year of my life. I blame lack of sleep.

Preschool Mom had a good gig. Every milestone brought a gentle, tethered independence. Her kids could bravely climb on the playground, but still insisted on an audience. They began to acquire useful skills, like dressing themselves and operating the remote controls. Preschool Mom got credit for knowing everything, for being able to heal a wound by kissing it, and for an unrivaled beauty that needed to be immortalized in crayon portraits. 

This is me. Or possibly Spiderman.

Preschool Mom's gig is coming to an end.

I don't mind being Grade School Mom, helping with homework and cutting out box tops and buying school supplies (insider tip: shop early). I enjoy the science fair projects and the piano recitals. My kids are learning Mandarin, which is pretty amazing.

But I am going to miss Preschool Mom, in a way that I never missed the other phases.

As these grade schoolers grow bigger and smarter and more independent, I hope they remember the best things about their Preschool Mom. How cool she was. How she sometimes knew things without Googling them. How she made grocery shopping into an adventure.

Now, they request Frappuccinos.

How much she loves them, at every age, now and forever.

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