I worked for most of Mirabella’s preschool years, but I also got a “bonus” year last year when I homeschooled her for kindergarten. I know beyond a shadow that she is ready for first grade, and her unbridled enthusiasm as she runs onto and off of the bus each day is such beautiful confirmation for me.
Still when I sat in the stale smelling gymnasium five days before school started, I felt panicked. I looked around at all the strangers, many of whom sat and chatted easily with each other, many of whom seemed older and more seasoned than I, others younger, and still others probably right where I am. I looked around and thought there’s no way this is here already. No way I am already out of the season of having all of my children home. Gone are the impromptu trips to visit family in the middle of the week in the middle of a month. Wait, we never really did that—why didn’t we do that while we had the chance? My mind raced. I fidgeted and attempted a couple of half-hearted smiles when I caught someone’s eye. It was just all too soon.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “This is just it, right? This is a moment. It’s here and I wasn’t ready.” She laughed uncomfortably, perhaps because I don't laugh when I'm uncomfortable; I just keep talking.
These first few weeks have been so much adjustment. Waking early which, in theory, I like but which would be much easier if I weren’t (still!) up all night. Encouraging the children to own their tasks so I don’t have to nag all morning. Taking all three kids to the bus stop, bringing only two home. Three days per week, Emerie is in preschool for a few hours, so I run her a couple blocks away to school, then rush home to attempt to give the baby a nap. After lunch, I collect her again and rush home to try to get both littles to nap before waking them to hurry back to the bus stop. Somewhere between the stops and starts, in the surprisingly small windows of time, I attempt to clean something or procure something or cook something or talk to someone or rest. Before I know it each day, the day is gone and it’s bed time—it feels like it’s always almost bed time.
But in this change, though I celebrate it, I feel a bit unmoored. I never had the chance, before, to be home with a baby. Recently as my four-year-old attended “big girl story time” at the library (no parents in the room), I sat on the floor while my infant played and while other moms around me chatted. This pace is uncharted for me. I don't always, as I have been in the habit of doing, narrate our days. Instead I listen to accounts of days I didn’t get to see. I try to think of creative, open-ended questions to elicit specific answers. I run errands with one child, or maybe two. Our days feature bursts of activity, but things at home are slow and quiet. I rock a baby and I read stories, I cook dinner in the middle of the afternoon; I spend a lot of time on the floor. It’s subtle, but I am shifting from the foreground.