8.21.2017

starting over

Today my oldest child started Kindergarten -- but I can't even talk about that yet. I'm still trying to keep my mind focused on how adorable he looked at his table, nametag around his neck, coloring pumpkins with the fresh crayons tucked inside his little pencil case. The thoughts of him eating lunch in a big cafeteria or walking to and from specials inside a big elementary school are too scary, so I'm trying to keep them at bay. Anyway, like I was saying. Today my oldest child started Kindergarten. I swear he was born yesterday, but in actuality he is six years old. He has two adult teeth already and he asks for privacy in the bathroom and he can read third grade level chapter books on his own, but he still climbs into my lap when he needs to feel safe and he still needs me to kiss his boo-boos when he hurts himself and in so many ways, he is still my little baby. Of course, I also have an actual baby who is still getting in her first teeth and learning the ropes of the world, like not to pick things up off the floor and stick them into your mouth. She still requires a nap on most days and still falls if she walks too quickly and she's still learning to communicate using words. After school drop off this morning, I took my baby to the mall to walk the interior perimeter as I used to do when her big brother was an infant and I didn't know anybody. It was exercise and it was air-conditioned and no one would talk to me, because I was one "hello, how are you?" away from losing my mind. (Kindergarten hurts, guys. It just does.)

Sometimes people say that I'm starting over. That Ethan goes off to school and instead of truly moving myself into this next phase of life, I instead move myself right back to square one. Diapers and feeding schedules and all of the chaos that accompanies a baby-baby, not just a Kindergarten-baby. Is it hard to move back to packing diaper bags and packing snacks and making sure the minivan is equipped with a baby carrier or stroller at all times? Is it hard to give up spontaneity for a nap? Well, yes. But harder yet is the thought of not having it at all. Any of it.

There was a great deal of time when I thought that I would never get to hold a baby of my own again. There was a large chunk of time when I thought that the two children I would have to parent would be my living one and my dead one; parenting one with attention and affection, and the other with memory and heartbreak. While my days of belly bumpdates and fetus-to-fruit comparisons died with Wylie, I would in fact get to be a parent again. It would take fight and grit and strength that I dug out of my brokenness, but it would happen nonetheless. Holding my daughter in my arms for the first time was magic, but seeing Ethan smile as he held her in his arms for the first time was vindication. It was joy again, rising up from the dead and pressing the resume button on a life that felt painfully paused. I am grateful for every minute of it. I'm grateful that I showed up to Kindergarten drop-off with a stroller in tow and smashed-up sandwich on my shirt. I'm grateful that I am waiting out naptime writing this, a load of wash in the washing machine and tonight's dinner already in the oven, and when I press publish I will return to creating tot school curriculum just like I used to do during naptimes five years ago. I'm grateful for all of it because it's real life and messiness and goodness and stepping-on-yucky-fruit after feeling so numb for so long.

I couldn't imagine starting over, either. I couldn't imagine dusting myself off and starting over in an entirely different life than the one I thought I knew for 30 years. But thankfully I don't have to. I just got to press play after a little pause.

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