When I started GetRealMama so many years ago, I was knee deep in diapers and baby food. My life revolved around playgroups, story time, and Music Together. It was a time of strollers, pack and plays, bounce houses and baby showers. A time when it seemed to take forever to get anywhere and when we took mountains of gear everywhere we went. I was always surrounded by crawlers, toddlers and nursing mothers. It was an amazing period of my life, one where I witnessed first steps and saw my young children experience things for the first time. It was also a period of stress, brought on by sleepless nights, ear infections and some really, really boring birthday parties (hello, where are the adult beverages???)
But that was then. Time marched on and I have (almost) left the huggies behind. I haven't attended a playgroup in years and completely bypass the baby section of Target. My boys are now (almost) 10, 7 and 4. That means a fourth grader, a second grader and a preschooler. Man have things changed.
A little over a week ago I sat through back-to-school night. During fourth grade orientation I was struck by how old all the parents in the classroom looked. We are talking straight-up- grown ups. Middle aged grown-ups. And I fit right in. Now of course there are some outliers, parents who have older children in middle or high-school and are now seeing there youngest child through the final stages of elementary, but for the most part, we are no different than the other families. As I saw the grey hairs, and the fine lines etched in the other parent's faces I realized, that's me. (Though, knock on wood, I really haven't turned grey... yet!) And I looked at my son, his feet nearly the size of mine, all muscle, not one trace of baby left and I knew I had truly entered a new chapter in my life.
Even during my youngest child's orientation I could feel the difference. Packed in the preschool classroom were many first-timers. Parents taking their only or their oldest child to preschool for the very first time. Parents who were attending to a younger siblings needs, fixing a bottle, checking for a dirty diaper, while listening intently to the preschool teacher inform them about the four-year old's transition. There child might cry, this is normal. Their child will be exhausted, this is to be expected. Their child will... I found myself tuning out as the teacher went on, I busied myself filling out the forms and wondering how I would manage to keep track of dates, and assignments. I already knew that lied ahead. Julian will learn to read, and write, add and subtract and will give up his nap. He will start to lose the rounded toddler belly as he continues to grow. Next year he will make a leprechaun trap in Kindergarten. In first grade he will start having sleepovers and keep a reading log, and it will all go by so fast. So very fast.
As my final child passes through each stage I realize that I am leaving behind my old life and thus, my identity is shifting. In some ways it is refreshing. I am no longer loaded down with a diaper bag and baby food jars, I can enjoy the freedom that comes with more independent children, and I find that my adult conversations no longer focus around diaper rash and sleep training. But as I drift further and further away from the mommy-and-me demographic, I feel a profound loss. For all of the sleepless nights and blouses stained with spit up, it really was a magical time, hazy, not perfect but magical all the same. And
I will miss it. Probably forever.