It's back-to-school season. I know this because I have a raging case of hay fever that has flared up at this time of year every year since Laugh In was still on the air. The nuns at my elementary school had no choice but to conclude I was stoned when I showed up on the first day of school with my Charlie's Angels Lunch Box and blood-red eyes. Sister Evelyn said a Rosary for me, no doubt.
But sure, as backpacks and giant boxes of crayons fill the seasonal aisles at Target, my eyes are itching, so it must be time for the kids to return to classes. And while my eyes are red because they don't know how to react to – um – air, many of my mom friends are red-eyed from crying.
You see, I have mom friends with every aged kid. Some are grandmas, some have college kids, some high schoolers, and some are sending the little kinder to garten. Many of mom friends feel a little wistful when the babies step on the school bus. It’s common to lament sending a baby off to kindergarten. It’s a milestone for certain. And it's one of the first moments when you’re faced with definitive proof that the wish that they “just stay little” has not been granted.
I've been asked (since I'm a veteran) if “it gets better.” And after a pause to show that I hear them and understand, I have this response.
“Hail, yes, it gets better. Get over it.”
Blunt, but sometimes Mama needs tough love. I believe it’s important to allow yourself to cry for like three minutes. But as that bus rounds the corner and is out of sight, get your act together, sister. The whole point of teaching a toddler not to wear their underwear on their heads and how to operate a spoon is so they can get the heck out of the house for a few hours a day.
I get it. I do. I cried when my first child got on the school bus for “young fives” kindergarten. I followed that up by yelling at the rest of my family and a feverish couple of loads of laundry. I had a meltdown for an hour or so. I, like most mothers, worried that I didn't do enough to prepare him for bullies and Ven diagrams and how to manage putting a straw in a bag of Capri Sun unassisted. I worried my little sweetie would forget he was on the Tiger Bus and be dropped off in Hell's Kitchen. I worried about mean kids. Like I said, I get it. Also, sorry to say, some of the stuff you worry about will happen.
But moms, you've got to snap out of it.
Here are a few ideas to get through those first hours after you wave goodbye to the Tiger Bus. First up, this is not the time to peruse those scrapbooks and ponder the baby days. This is a time for you to think forward, now backward. Go get your hair done, clean something, or do like I did and enter a new career!
The same day my oldest went to his first day of school, I started a new job. It works for college, too. Set yourself up for something new and distracting to tackle in the wake of those big kid milestones.
Before you know it, three o'clock will be here. Your little tot will disembark the Tiger Bus with his shorts on sideways and jelly stains on his cheeks. Or, in the case of my little one, sleeping because young fives kindergarten is tiring y'all.
They'll get off that bus, and you'll be pressed back into service to break up a dispute with the younger one, find double-a batteries, wipe something, remove something from somewhere, or all of the above at once. You'll be glad you got your hair done or did something non-mommy related during those precious few moments when your child was “out there” in the big world, sipping Capri Sun with the aid of the lunch lady.
And keep in mind, it's just kindergarten. You have another ten or fifteen minutes before they leave for college and stop answering your texts.