Times and Seasons of Parenthood: When the Last Child Starts School
My youngest started Kindergarten last week. I surprised myself by crying most of the walk home. Realizing that my last child started school hit me harder than I expected. The last one—I’ve officially closed the door on one season of parenthood.
I won’t lie. I cried on my walk home; yet, a strange sense of freedom began to bubble up. If I want to go to the store, I can walk out the door. If I want to go for a run, no problem. If I want to sit on the couch and watch Gilmore Girls all day, who cares.
I didn’t do any of those things because I work from home, but the point is—I could have. Working without interruption is A-MA-ZING. Even when my son was in preschool last year and I had two hours a day to work, it wasn’t the same. I felt so much pressure to get my work done in that short amount of time that I could barely focus. Now…I’ve got all day.
Times and seasons of change are all a part of parenting. I mean, life, in general, is full of change, but parenting is on my mind so there ya go.
Conflicting Emotions of Change
As a parent, you see it all the time: change. At one point in my parenting life, I was in the time and season of perpetual exhaustion. Getting three consecutive hours of sleep while I nursed a newborn and took met the needs of an 8, 5, and 3-year-old seemed impossible. I thought those days would never end.
But they did.
This summer my youngest taught himself to ride a bike. As I watched him pull away with no help from me, it hit me that their journey is speeding up and leaving me behind. I know they’ll always need me, of course, but it’s not the same. There’s this little part of me that wants it all to stop.
“Wait,” I want to say. “Come back. Sit on my lap, and let’s sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ one more time.”
That’s not how it works though. Looking at them and seeing how much they’ve changed, I also see changed in myself. I’m no longer the parent wiping down every surface my child could conceivably touch. My daughter licking the bookshelves at the library cured me of that one. I’m more confident in some respects and hopelessly insecure in others.
While my children aren’t likely to slow down their march towards independence anytime soon, I have learned to stop and take joy in these small moments of change.
Joy of Watching Them Grow
Sometimes you don’t even realize they’ve reached a pivotal moment until someone points it out. Like the time I started to cut my niece’s peaches for her, and she stopped me because she could do it. She was the same age as my daughter who I noticed, without me there to cut her food, was taking on the job herself. When I backed off, she learned and wore the joy of triumph on her face.
She was so proud of herself for cutting her own food. As her parent, I was happy too. Happy to see her struggle a little but keep trying; happy to see her accomplishment; happy that I didn’t have to do everything for her anymore.
It’s times like this, my last little one starting school, that I have to remind myself that this is one of those moments to find joy—enjoy watching them grow, gain confidence, discover independence. Watching them successfully transition to school and the challenges that come with it means I’m doing my job. I have no doubt we’ll have some tough times this school year, but it’s all part of growing.
This parenting role changes slowly but surely.
Parenting is an Ever-Changing Role
My children are still fairly young, but I can feel my role in their lives changing each year. There are fewer shoestrings to be tied, zippers to be wrestled, and faces to be wiped. They don’t need me for those things anymore.
The questions are deeper, the problems more difficult to understand. At times, solutions are hard to find. But in the midst of the questions and challenges are little moments to cherish. Quiet moments like talking to my son about the differences between the two caterpillars on our front porch and guessing what kind of butterfly/moth they may become. Alone time with each of them is more valuable to me than ever. With four kids, those moments between us are few and far between, but that makes them even more special.
Sometimes the times and seasons of parenthood require NOT thinking about what once was or will be tomorrow, but what is today. Today they’re all at school away from me. In a way, they’re testing out all they’ve learned at home in a world that will challenge everything they believe.
Though I’m grateful for past times and seasons, I’m grateful for this one too. They can grow and spread their wings, and so can I.