Written by Marykate Wurster, mom of 3 from Riverside, Connecticut
My youngest child is graduating from preschool in two weeks. She is graduating from a school that has been lovingly entwined in her life, and all of ours, for five consecutive years. She was first there at 6 weeks with her older sister and brother for Visiting Day, and many trips followed being carried in and out in her infant carrier. The following year she was back, this time squirming out of my arms to crawl and finally as a toddler, teetering down the familiar hallway determined to attend school like her siblings before her. And as I write this, I can scarcely think where the past five years have gone.
We have been through sleepless nights, and potty training and the terrible twos. And she is now ready to embark on kindergarten. With her older siblings I am suddenly hosting sleepovers, and setting rules about internet usage and iPods. And when I tell them it’s time to dress or make their beds, they do it without me helping them, at all. They clear their dishes from the table (most of the time), can tie laces and fix themselves a bowl of cereal. I just stand back and think how wonderful and sad it is.
Parenting is the art of letting go, little by little. The sadness is that the days of babyhood and toddlers are gone, remaining only in photographs and scrapbooks; and the knowledge that these days too are fleeting. Good Night Moon makes way for One Morning in Maine and then the American Girl series. Playgroups morph into playdates. And with every mark on the growth chart, there is also the reward. The joy is seeing the once shy and reserved child blossom into someone confident, with a strong voice. And to watch the child who clung to you on the first day of preschool go bounding into the elementary school doors with gusto.
And so, I am trying to savor these days. I am reminding myself that sleepovers lead to sleeping away at college and then in one’s own house. And that time will have its own joys too. But today, I want to focus on what I have here, and now. One of my favorite essays on motherhood is by Anna Quindlen and she says, “The biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough.” It is something I work at all the time for there is always a load of laundry calling to me, or an email to send or a call to return, but these moments will surely slip away while the laundry remains. I am not sure I will ever master this but if I can get it right once in a while, that will be enough.
Mothers and friends, does this resonate with you? For me, there are always the endless to do lists and as a “doer ” I gravitate towards the next thing on my list. I find being out of the house helps – I am much more present on an outing – at the zoo or beach where I can’t tackle the laundry! Who else struggles with this? Has anyone been able to get this right?