Sometimes I wonder if I am just not cut out for this mom of elementary age school kids thing. I mean, I kind of had it figured out when they were toddler and preschool aged. I liked what they liked. Story time. Sing-a-longs, park play dates with fellow mommies (and wine) on a sunny day. I knew that giving a meal a special name ("sunshine carrots" "pizza cupcakes" ") or cutting sandwiches into dinosaur shapes could fool them into eating healthy foods. I knew that the promise of a sticker or a balloon could make a trip to Target, Safeway or the liquor store tolerable for everyone. Bedtime was at 7:30. They liked the bath. They let me dress them. I knew what the hell I was doing.
Kindergarten wasn't too bad. Homework consisted of reading and an occasional worksheet. The after school activities were of our choosing and we picked based on convenience.
But shit started getting real once we entered first, second and now third grade and I just don't know if I can keep up. My kids are no longer as easily bribed, or motivated by the dollar bin at Target. They have opinions about how they want their hair cut. They have hours of homework, fierce tempers, and so very many interests. Soccer, baseball, basketball, swimming- I know this is practically sacrilegious to say but I don't want to spend my Friday night in a run down gym watching my six year old running basketball drills, or my Saturdays in back to back soccer games. It's a full time job trying to keep track of their social, school and extracurricular activities. How am I really supposed to remember that the third Saturday of the month is Evan's snack day for basketball (and one kid has a gluten allergy,) and Zack's snack day is the following Tuesday-no nuts!! When they were younger, the kids did what we wanted for the most part, with a few easy adaptations, now however... we aren't running the show.
I guess I'm a little selfish. But that isn't the only hurdle of parenting school-aged kids I have encountered. There are others. I mentioned homework earlier. Oh the damn homework. It was one thing when we were doing simple addition flash cards and practicing writing the alphabet, but long division, who does long division anymore? Third graders that's who. And it is embarrassing when I have to reach for me phone to find the answer to 463 divided by 18. And it's too much. The homework is too damn much. At the end of a long day the last thing the kids and I want to do after dinner is more work, and yet it needs to be done, often times with kicking and screaming.
Even Christmas and other gift-giving holidays have become harder. The kids who were once overjoyed by a stuffy, a small set of legos or some Hot Wheels now had Iphones, Ipads, gaming systems, laptops and large sums of money on their wish list. Nothing shuts down the romance of Santa than getting NOTHING on your list. (Sorry son, the elves in the North Pole don't make I-anything!)
Finally, there is a whole new world to navigate. A world where they meet kids at school who watch R-rated movies. A world where my nine year old has his own email account and knows how to navigate the dangerous world of the worldwide web. A world where I find my children joking about vaginas and talking about kissing. A world where they know how to turn on the TV and stumble on an episode of The Family Guy. A world where one kid has more friends than the other. A world where my kids can actually do real damage to each other in a battle over a Nerf gun. A world where the boys start asking questions about drugs and the wine we are drinking.
A world when those babies are growing into people, people with their own ideas, desires, personality quirks, strengths and weaknesses. It really is an amazing, and sometimes scary thing to watch. Once I held my baby in my womb, then later at my breast. The first few years that followed, those kids held my hand and looked to me for everything, and yet now I see them separating, a little more each day. And each day as I give them more room to be independent, I feel myself letting go of something. It isn't love or attachment, but it's something. I'm not a Mommy anymore. I'm turning into Mom. Mom who administers homework and cheers from the sidelines. Mom who gets an occasional eye-roll and a smart mouth. Mom who is no longer called upon to plan birthday parties with goody bags, but to book the event and stay out of site. And in my head I know. I know that this is right and good. But sometimes my heart aches a little as I see my youngest, my three year old, and I know that he is the last little hand I will hold to cross the street, the last little guy I will watch PBS with, the last one to ever utter the word "mommy" in my presence.
I remember being nervous and a little afraid as I awaited the birth of my first born son. Would I be able to nurse him? Would I drop him in the bath? What if he got sick? Yet I mastered that. I figured it out with time, and now as we enter a whole new phase of parenthood, I have to trust that I will figure this out as well. We will get through the homework, and the crazy schedules. We will guide our children into adolescence the same way that we navigated sleepless nights and potty training. Sure, there will be mistakes and there are things we will wish we would have done differently. But we will get through it, and I have a feeling that someday I will be sitting at a keyboard writing a similar post about sending my boys off to college. Perhaps I will write about missing their big shoes and their sweaty gym socks cluttering the living room floor. I am guessing that I will feel nostalgia for the back-to-school nights and a basement full of noisy little men.
There is one thing I am certain of, one constant that will stand the test of time: I won't always be a mommy, but those boys, they will always, always be my babies.