Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Back To School - it's a big year!

The older I get, the more I understand why I live the life I do.

I've realized that I'm a full time Mama because there are certain lessons in life that don't hit home quite like they do when they involve your children. I like to think that I'm equipped with certain qualities that I know help me with the mama thing - patience, creativity, loyalty, understanding, and some others. But there are certainly things I need work on, and motherhood tests them all. Things like...change, control, sharing emotions in uncomfortable situations, being friendly even when I don't want to...

And let me tell you - turning 30, having your baby start Kindergarten, your middle baby start preschool, and your baby-baby nearing his first birthday at a rapid pace - all at the same time - makes you face those things head-on!

Last Tuesday, Lukas had his first day of Kindergarten. I was up at 11:30 the night before, silently shedding tears in the dark while dramatically drumming up the clearest memories I have of feeling him kick in my belly. I had to coax myself to sleep, and I was up well before 6 with first day jitters. I took a shower, packed his lunch, and made him a breakfast of scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and cinnamon sugar toast. I triple checked that everything was in his backpack (including the note stating that he was NOT to take the bus home), and grabbed the camera for his first day pictures. He was his usual, goofy self!

When we got to school, I was afraid the nerves would set in and the tears would take over. Luke is such an emotional kid, and all through preschool - despite being in the same classroom with the same teachers and classmates for two years, he cried almost everyday when we dropped him off. Especially when we added extra classes to make his schedule a 5-day week instead of 3. He missed his home and his family, and Kindergarten is obviously a busier schedule than even that was. I feel like when he gets weepy about that, I feel it in a very personal, deep way. It reminds me of being his age. I believe that Luke and I were paired together in this life because we understand each other in a way only we can.

But surprisingly, we were both in high spirits as we approached his school.

One thing to note: I had a bad experience with one of the Kindergarten teachers when we went for his screening in May. She talked down to me like I was just a silly Mom of another brand new public schooler with silly whackadoodle opinions, and she even dared to force me into making a decision I wouldn't be comfortable with. You know the worst part? I let people like her control me the way they try to, and I end up feeling like....well, okay, they speak with such confidence that maybe I should follow their suggestions (despite burning up inside over them). Well, wouldn't you know it, Luke was assigned to her classroom this year. I immediately pictured a school year of being disrespected and making choices I wouldn't believe in just to keep her happy. I felt very stuck, and vowed to be as kind and helpful as possible to try and combat her personality, but after a few suggestions I instead worked up the courage to ask the principal to move Luke to another class. She was very understanding and she immediately moved him to a new class. Not only is Luke's teacher extremely nice, she's younger (probably exactly my age, give or take a couple years) and more relate-able, AND - he gets to be in class with one of his friends from preschool! Taking this step and having him moved to his current classroom was the BIGGEST relief for me (especially because I was worried about MY hesitations becoming HIS), so we were released of a lot of stress and anxiety that we would have had this first day.

Luke lead us right to his classroom (which he was proud to plot the course to during open house), hung up his backpack and lunch box, and all but shooed us out of the room as he got started on his very first day. As we left the room, Matt made a comment about me needing to be peeled away - well, he's my baby! It felt SO strange to leave him behind and not be on care duty 24/7. It's just so strange.

After we dropped Luke off, we attended a breakfast put on by the school's PTA for new Kindergarten parents. I really enjoyed getting to know the PTA a little and volunteering for a ton of events so that I can be up close and personal with Luke's school experience. When the breakfast was over, Matt suggested that we go to the outlets to do a little shopping, and it actually took a lot of convincing. I know - I never need convincing for THAT, but it felt so weird to be THAT far away from Luke! I felt like I wasn't allowed or something. But we did eventually go, and it helped pass the time until we could go pick up our guy!

When we picked Luke up from school, we asked him where he'd like to go for a treat - an after-first-day tradition we were carrying out for the third year. I also brought a handful of new books as a gift (another tradition) for him to open while we had our treat. He chose to go get an ice cream cone this year, so we went and got our treats and opened his books while he gave us little tidbits of his first day. That afternoon, I snuggled with him when he should have been taking a nap - I couldn't bear to break away after being apart from him all day. But each day since, things have gotten a little better for both of us as we settle into a new routine and a new phase of life, and despite the fact that I wish we could skip this all together and be homeschool lifers, I think we'll survive this Kindergarten thing.

I was really thankful that Henry's preschool wouldn't be starting for a full week after Luke started Kindergarten so I could really concentrate on one thing at a time (those program directors sure know what they're doing!). I haven't been at all nervous about Henry starting preschool, because we absolutely adore his school and the teachers and have a history with them.

Every year, the school sends a photo and stickers about a week before school starts with instructions to add a sticker to the picture each morning, and then morning the picture is filled up will be the first day of school. This year's picture was an apple tree with apple stickers, and Henry was so excited to add stickers every morning! He would put a sticker on, count how many spaces for stickers were left, and say, "go to my preschool!"

Yesterday was his first day, and the second he woke up he was asking to leave! We fully expected him to be all excitement about this day, and that's exactly how it was.

When we got to school, he remembered the routine from dropping Luke off there two years in a row. He put his backpack away, waltzed right up to the classroom door, gave his teacher a hug (so cute), and walked off to play. I had no worries at all about him, so I turned around to sign up to help at a party this year - I hadn't walked away from the door for a full minute, and he came running out towards me, bawling. He grabbed onto my legs as soon as he made it to me, and I bent down to hug him. He was happy again within seconds, but then started reaching for my hand and saying, "come on!"  Even after all this time and talking about it and his experience with Luke, I don't think he realized that he would be staying there without me! He's never been without family there before!

The teachers helped him back into the classroom, and he was good to go. When I picked him up, he was bopping around the playground with a smile on his face, and when he saw me he waved and said, "Oh hi, mom!" like it just dawned on him that I'd be back! The teachers told me that he had a few moments of missing me, but he'd just kind of go off on his own and deal with it, and come back when he was ready. They said it reminded them of Luke :)

I asked him where he wanted to go for his afterschool treat, and he said he wanted a Starbucks cake pop - so that's where we went! I brought along his little first day of school gift, which always involves books, but I also grabbed him a Spiderman kite from the Summer clearance section at the grocery store while I was waiting to go pick him up. He loved it!

(PS - These first day gifts for the kids? I spent $2 on Luke and $1 on Henry. The kite was $.75 and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse book I got him was $.25 at a garage sale. Luke's books were all $.50 garage sale books! My goal isn't to spoil them, just to give them something for getting through their first days, and continue their love of books!)

This was such an emotional couple of weeks for me with all of this change and newness happening. But also - I get nostalgic for certain routines, and I even get weepy about driving the same route I used to take with Luke, being at his preschool without him and getting used to it being Henry's, seeing Henry walk in with Luke's preschool backpack (we did offer to let him pick a new one, but he insisted on having Luke's old Lightening McQueen one!). I'm bad with change. Even good change - even positive growth - even relatively insignificant details. I'm such a wistful creature, and I'm sure motherhood is meant to push me through the paces of working on that.

Also, my life is incredibly busy now, and I'm playing chauffeur 5 days a week - and more than just back and forth to Luke's and Henry's school. My weekdays are so endlessly exhausting, that my weekends now feel like the time to tune out, and sometimes that's a bad thing because housework doesn't get done in the process. So I'm still working on finding balance.

I don't AT ALL want to hurry life along, as I believe my time with these three guys is the golden era of my life, but I'm definitely looking forward to the single glorious year (4 years in the future), when I will pull up to one elementary school, and my three men will trod off to Kindergarten, Second, and Fourth grades, and my only other stop for the day will be to pick them all up at the same place. Won't that be luxurious? ;)

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