When all three of my kids reached school-age, I mistakenly believed that I was going to finally be a woman of leisure. I was looking forward to sipping lattes at Starbucks, finding my inner Zen at yoga classes and enjoying leisurely strolls through the grocery store aisles discovering new and exotic foods to eat. I’m kidding, yes.
But I wasn’t prepared for this.
Nobody told me that it just gets busier. I expected the weariness when my kids were babies. The sleep deprivation that caused me to be bleary-eyed, walking into walls, drunk on exhaustion. But I knew. I knew it wouldn’t last forever. I knew I would sleep again. Because kids eventually sleep through the night. And now mine do.
But now I don’t.
My senses are always on high alert. I hear every noise, every creak, every cough. If a slight sound doesn’t wake me? My bladder will. I have three kids to thank for that. If not my bladder, my mind is more than happy to oblige. I wake up at 2 am thinking about all the things. I think about the million and one questions my kids asked me throughout the day. The questions I struggled to answer. Why are there hurricanes? Why do people get sick and die? Of course daddy longlegs are spiders. Right? Wrong? I have no idea. Have I become a harbinger of alternative facts for my kids?
I wasn’t prepared for everything I would have to remember. At any given moment throughout the day I am thinking of at least twenty different things that need to be done, should have been done or I forgot to do. Is it gym day? Is it hockey day? Did I remember to wash their gear? Is today the day they had the quiz? Did I remember to fill out their school forms? Did I pack the bathing suits for swimming lessons? Oh lord, was today a spirit day? It’s exhausting.
I wasn’t prepared for school. I thought when they went to school there would be less on my to-do list. Ha! There are random celebration days, teacher appreciation lunches, sports day, dress as your favorite book character day, Lego contest day, and silly hair day.
Oh, and there’s more.
Even this strange year, there are book reports and school projects. Building boats and bridges and musical instruments. There’s fundraising for new park equipment, new library books, a new gym scoreboard. There is home reading and math skills. There are forms. So many forms. There are before school practices and after school games.
I wasn’t prepared for the extracurricular activities. Nobody warns you. It’s not just the lessons. There is trying to get your kids registered for the lessons. It’s getting up at 5:00 am to wait in a line with all the other mothers and fathers desperate to get their kids into the same swimming lessons as you. There are fundraisers. Last year, there were recitals and weekends away. Extra practices, extra ice time, extra gear. None of which are covered by the original fees. Start getting used to throwing your money away now. It won’t be so painful later.
There is also the driving. So much driving. If you’re not driving? You’re waiting. Waiting in parking lots, at the swimming pool, school gyms, and hockey rinks. There are dinners eaten on the run and shuffling schedules and desperate pleas to family to pick up Johnny because Susie’s soccer game start has just been changed.
I wasn’t prepared for my kids’ social lives being busier than the Bachelor’s. The play dates, the birthday parties, the group projects. Now there are moments spent each day, debriefing and discussing what happened on the school playground. There are broken hearts to mend and secrets to share. There are so many important conversations to have, on friendships and bullying and acceptance. In the car, around the dinner table, at bedtime. Especially at bedtime.
Yes, this stage is exhausting. I wasn’t prepared for the warp speed that we find ourselves travelling at.
But it’s not just the physical tiredness. It’s the emotional drain as well.
I wasn’t prepared for the worry when they aren’t with me. Are they safe? Are people being kind to them? Are they being kind to others? It’s difficult to take a step back and let them find their own way. To watch them try to navigate the tricky waters of friendships and social acceptance. More than anything you want to protect your children from heartache and pain but as they get older, this becomes increasingly less possible.
I wasn’t prepared for the roller coaster of emotions. The eye-rolling, the feet stomping, the slamming of doors. Not yet. I thought these things didn’t happen until the teenage years.
I also wasn’t prepared for the flicker of sadness when they become less dependent and more independent. I wasn’t prepared for the struggle of holding fast and letting go. It is such a struggle.
I wasn’t prepared for feeling so grateful for a hug and kiss goodbye at school drop-off. Or for the “I love you Mommy,” cards that come home in their backpacks. Or for the fact that they will still crawl into my lap for cuddles, even though their legs dangle down past my knees now.
This stage of parenting? It’s exhausting, in so many ways.
But it’s also amazing, in so many more.