In the days leading up to Ella returning to preschool, my focus had been on preparing her. I had her outfit decided and all laid out, with some interesting input (read: disagreement) from her. More than that, it was reminding her how to sign in and who would be there and which classroom was hers. Telling her periodically that there would be new friends and old friends. Reassuring her that if anyone asked her questions, like her name or her age, that she knew the answer and could tell them. Like me, she likes to get an idea of what’s ahead. She likes to be prepared.
I, however, neglected to prepare myself.
Driving home from dropping her off, I felt I finally understood why all these empty nesters and grandparents say that the time goes by so quickly. Days can be mind numbing as a stay at home mom- answering the same question over and over, trying to make it to the next benchmark of each day, just waiting for the clock to strike bedtime. I have a lot of days like that. But recently, there have been more days like today. Where I don’t know how she’s all of a sudden this child and not the tiny baby sleeping in a swing. How did we get here? How did all that waiting turn into time passing, slipping through my fingers?
Everyday, she’ll belong a little more to the world. And we won’t be talking about firsts anymore; it’ll be lasts. I won’t own all of her memories and I won’t be her translator. She’ll speak for herself, have time for herself. I didn’t realize that would mean less time together. I think maybe the definition of motherhood is being happy and sad all the time. I’ve loved her excitement this past week, asking everyday if it was the day she’d go back to school. I loved her having an opinion on her outfit. She smiled easily for all the pictures I insisted we take. She wanted to hold her little bag herself as we walked into her classroom. All last year, I would hang it up for her and she did it without hesitation. I loved it all, even though it felt like I was losing her a little bit.
The road ahead is paved with a thousand little goodbyes and changes and I’m in no way prepared for any of them. But Ella seems to be doing just fine and if it’s between me and her, it’s an easy choice. I’ll just have to do what the empty nesters and grandparents say: cherish each moment. Cherish her. Cherish these early days, this time we have together.
Time–it’s a thief and a gift.