I'm an idiot. Or at least I'm a glutton for punishment, because I hatched up the idea to spend our very last days of summer vacation driving down south to visit my family in a whirlwind trip- only to arrive home with 36 hours before my daughter started her first day of Kindergarten. My poor mom is going to read this and fold up into a guilt induced fetal position fearing that she stressed me out by having us come down. The truth is I wouldn't trade the trip for the world, but next time, a few days of buffer between road trip and a five year old's bus riding debut would be ideal.
Road trips bring out the complete control freak in me. On the way down, my brother drove with me to help with the kids and sneak in some bonding time. (OK, he didn't drive, because I felt the need to drive the whole time.) But how could we not bond- we had 16 hours of captivity in a van. Despite the sweet moments, such a long time in a van with 3 kids eventually warps me. The last 45 minutes of our trip, my youngest let us know in no uncertain terms that he was no longer enjoying the ride. The GPS finally told us we were within five minutes of my parents house, then my brother told me it would be a little bit longer- we would have to take a detour due to a bridge repair. I got a little bit of a crazy look in my eye- like a cornered animal- I asked him if he was SURE the road was closed or if he just THOUGHT it was closed-perhaps HE was delusional (I should know)- I honked at a (probably very nice) person who paused a nanosecond too long when the stoplight turned green- I was in that mommy zone when you can't think of anything but getting to your baby and letting them know it is OK. We pulled into the house, I grabbed the baby and burst into tears. Welcome to Nana and Papa's house kids!!
On the trip home my Mom was the unlucky one to get stuck as my copilot. She will deny that and say she thoroughly enjoyed herself, but I think "snippy" would be a polite way to describe some of my remarks to her. Anyway, by the time we got home my mom didn't even have a full 24 hours at our house- she made the most of it, helped me with the kids, and was off before noon the next day. We were all so exhausted, and I had already done the back to school legwork before the trip, so I went to bed and woke up without any sense of impending emotions. My daughter asked my husband to stay and see her get on the bus, so the five of us walked down our long driveway, one in the stroller, me with my camera of course, snapping pictures and trying to explain to my oldest son why he could not get on the bus with his sister.
Finally we saw the bus in the distance and I realized I had just a minute more to hug my daughter- as soon as I had her warm little embrace and her sunshiny hair in my face the emotions came storming out. Oops, there's the on switch. So she made it on the bus just fine, but I was glad my husband was there because I was not just fine after all. And I wonder why it is that we have to cry. Is it this sudden realization that our child is not a baby anymore, even though we have had years to realize that? Are we sad because they might be nervous without us- or harder still, that they might not need us in quite the same way anymore? Do we mourn their independence, even as pride wells up in who they are becoming? Do we suddenly feel the weight of how short our time with them really is and wish we were better at embracing each moment? (For me perhaps it also had a little to do with sleep deprivation. )
It is a letting go. And it seems everything in life sooner or later is a letting go.
But we know it is worth it. And we know we wouldn't really freeze our kids at a certain age even if we could. Because only in the letting go of the chubby baby rolls and squeaky babbles do we get to see the beauty of our child's flourishing personality, knowledge, physical ability, and love. And hopefully the emotional snapshot moments steel our hearts and our resolve to truly live in the present with the precious gifts we've been given. Beyond blessed.