Summer is gone in a flash, like lightning it is bright, hot…fleeting. Raising children, there are times when every moment seems to pass at this lighting speed. There are also times that seem to stretch so long in an eternity of torture that you begin to wonder if you are the punchline in some cruel joke. When you are raising a child, time is precious and boundless and finite and endless.
Tomorrow comes fast on the heels of today. Tomorrow my five year old becomes a Kindergartner, and even though he has been to pre-school and made friends from strangers and coped with new situations and learned in a group setting before, this is still a new and unknown adventure.
There are all kinds of mothers in the world. Some moms work outside the home. Some are crafty. Some pre-cook meals and freeze them and some are just fine with pizza three times a week. No one way is guaranteed to produce a happy, whole, well-adjusted child, and anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. But there is one instinct that I believe all mothers will understand.
The instinct to protect.
We all know it is best for our children to learn to cope with stress, to handle conflict, to problem solve. We all also know the best way to lose weight is slowly, through diet and exercise, but we all secretly hope that three day cleanse will work just as well and faster.
The radical, rule-breaker, fist-fighter inside me wants to redo elementary school alongside my son, creating a shield of rebellious protection. The mother in me doesn’t even want to argue with her. But the woman who had to learn the hard way that you must fight your own battles to truly have won, she is the still small voice — less amusing and less passionate, but no less correct. She reminds the other two that they must chill, they can’t beat up the world no matter how much they may want to, and in the end, the best thing for the kid is to just hang back and hope.
Every stage requires letting go. The baby stage, when they look at us like we are the only thing in the whole universe worth acknowledging: gone. The just walking, talking, eating everything, making up words, laughing because you blew a bubble and wow that’s the best: gone. The I can do it, pitch a fit when I can’t, still let you do it because I got bored: gone. The I really got this, back off: gone.
Children move in and out of moments like lightning, too, their faces alive with the glow of newness. And over and over again we feel them slip from our fingers, tearing at the scabs on our hearts. Eventually, we recognize the sensation. The tugging at our grip. The pressure to give some space. It comes from them, it comes from the world waiting for them, and even, sometimes it comes from us.
We can be Zen about it, we can kick and scream, but still we are stabbed in the heart by our own offspring. We welcome the wounds. We revel in the pain because it means we are doing it well. Tomorrow my son will go to Kindergarten and I will smile and cheer and walk away no matter how much it hurts, and all the tears I want to cry will happen in the car ride home, because even though all I want to do is grab him and run, what I have to do is let go.