I sniffled and surreptiously wiped away tears last night,not for the first time that day. "Are you crying?" my husband asked. I shook my head no, determined not to let him know that Toy Story 3 had again reminded me of sending Captain Destructo to kindergarten.
Have you seen Toy Story 3 yet? If not I'll summarize it for you. Stupid Andy grows up and leaves his sweet, beloved mother behind while he goes off to college (it's possible that other things happen involving the toys but that was my takeaway). At the end of the movie, Andy and his mom walk into his empty room and look around. "Oh, Andy," his mom says, crying "I just wish I could be with you all the time."
That line pretty much sums up my feelings on the upcoming school year, when Captain Destructo will officially not be with me all the time and will go to kindergarten. The state of Texas hates mothers and so insists that 5 year olds attend full day kindergarten. I have tried everything I can think of to avoid this. Just this past week, I was determined to homeschool her to avoid sending her away. I have considered keeping her home an extra year. I have hoped that we would move to another state that allows part time kindergarten. If there was a way to avoid this that didn't involve wrapping her in 5 year old size Baby Bjorn and carrying her with me everywhere I go I have researched it.
In case you wondered, yes, I do realize I am being overly dramatic about kindergarten. Friends, I was a public school teacher. I used to laugh at parents like me, back when I was a cocky 23 year old with no children of my own. As a teacher, I saw how happy the students were in school and how much fun they had. In my 4 years of teaching, I think maybe once or twice did a kid cry that they missed their moms. Yet I still can't wrap my brain around MY daughter being in school 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. My list of fears includes, but is not limited to, the following:
-what if someone is mean to her?
-what if she gets lost trying to find her classroom?
-what if she can't get her yogurt open at lunch and no one helps her?
-what if she is sad or sick and misses me and I'm not there to make her feel better?
And then there are other, bigger fears too big to be named that I'm sure every other parent has had to think of, given recent events in schools in our country.
I'm trying to focus on positives, such as spending more one on one time with New Baby (who is actually 3 and not a baby). It's occurring to me that she may need some attention. She may or may not be still potty training. And it's possible that she needs to work on some skills that I mastered with Captain Destructo....New Baby counted yesterday and it went like this: "1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1." Oops. And as my husband pointed out while staring at disgust at the dust accumulated on the fan blades, I'll "have more time to clean next year."
So help me. Have you sent your kids to kindergarten? Were they ok? Were you ok? How did everyone cope?
Captain Destructo turned 5 a few days ago. FIVE. She's technically no longer a preschooler, yet not yet an elementary schooler (and thankfully not yet a tween, which is the time when I will be hiding in my bedroom and rocking myself). Actually, she's not really Captain Destructo anymore. She hasn't destroyed much of anything in the past few years, and has turned into a sweet, people-pleasing, princess-loving little girl. In between all my thoughts of "ohmygoodness, my baby is growing up and is going to leave me and get eaten up by the cruel, cruel world," I've had many thoughts about the past 5 years and how they have changed me. I've learned many, many painful lessons. Here are a few highlights.
1. No one cares.
Were you breastfed or bottle fed? Did you eat only organic food? Watch more than 30 minutes of TV a day? Potty trained by 2? Rear facing in your car seat? Yeah, I don't know either. (Actually, it turns out that I was not potty trained until I was 4. Had to ask my mom. Suddenly felt much better about not being able to get New Baby to sit on the potty for more than a second.) And you know what else? It doesn't matter. Seriously, most of the stuff I am stressing about-the teeny tiny details of how to get through the days-will not make a lick of difference in 10 years. It will matter if I teach my kids to love Jesus and to love and respect others, and not much else will. The college applications they will eventually fill out will not have boxes where you can check breastfed or not.
2. But also everyone cares.
I learned on day 2 of being a mother that children make you open to continuous public scrutiny. I was at Target, sleeping on my feet while shopping for such exotic items as milk and bread, and wearing my adorable, teeny tiny baby in a sling. A woman walked up to me and I smiled proudly, ready to show off a sleeping Captain Destructo. Then she said "you better be careful having that tiny baby out! I work in a hospital and see sick kids all the time." Cue hysterical post-partum crying and wondering why I wasn't a good enough mother to think of that. A few months later, I was told "aww, what a cute baby! Are you breastfeeding her?" I got the side-eye for exercising when pregnant with New Baby one day, then asked how much I worked out a few weeks later. I was told not to give the baby a pacifier (yet the binky was given to her by a nurse at the hospital when she was 1 day old). I've been criticized for vaccinating, for saying "no presents please" on a birthday invitation, for not freaking out when New Baby ate Goldfish off the floor , for using cloth diapers, for using disposable diapers, for breastfeeding in public, for not breastfeeding in public. Now, 5 years in, I'm "seasoned" enough to not care what people think, but it makes me sad to think about that new mom, stuffed into her too-small fat jeans and feeling uncertain and insecure.
3. Every stupid parenting cliche is true.
I remember stumbling into a CVS with a 6 month old New Baby and a 2 year old Captain Destructo. New Baby had been up (no exaggeration) 15 times the night before. I was nursing the baby, Captain Destructo was potty training, and my arthritis was flaring so bad I could barely walk. A sweet older lady walked up to me and said "enjoy it! It goes so fast." I wanted to laugh and yell, "it goes fast?! Do you know it's 10 AM and the only thing I've done all day is sit one kid on the potty and stick the other one on and off my boob? I wish it went fast!" And yet it seems like I blinked and it's done. I have a 5 year old and an almost 3 year old. My big girl will start kindergarten next year and my time as a stay at home mom will be over soon. It's ridiculously true what they say-the days are long, but the years are short.
4. Kids like to make you look like a liar.
True story-I picked up New Baby from church a few months ago and, after swearing she wasn't potty trained, was informed she'd gone on the potty like it was nothing. Both kids climbed the Chick Fil A play tower as I was in the middle of telling other moms they were both scared of it. I bragged to a friend about Captain Destructo's good appetite as she walked up and informed me she didn't like raisins anymore. What can I say? Sometimes kids like to keep you humble, I guess.
5. But mostly I've made myself a liar.
Another true story-before kids, I rolled my eyes at people who fed their kids fast food. Do you know how many times we had Chick Fil A for lunch last week? 3. I also swore my kids wouldn't watch too much TV, and yet as I write this, mine are parked in front of Disney Channel. On the short list of things I swore I'd never do but am currently doing-feeding the kids "kid food" for dinner, using Pull Ups on my almost 3 year old, buying princess crap out the wazoo, letting both kids use a pacifier, giving New Baby chocolate milk, etc., etc. Turns out I was a bit of a judgmental b before kids. So I'm sorry if I ever gave you the side eye. I'll assume those who judged me don't have kids yet either (and I'll laugh when they do, just like others are laughing at me now. It's the motherhood circle of life).
So it's been 5 crazy, terribly hard yet terribly wonderful years. Happy birthday Captain Destructo! I'm so thankful for you and the many lessons you've taught me.
P.S. I've been around the internet the past few months. You can see me here, here and here