Ava begins Grade 2 today, and William had his "Meet the Teacher" night at his new preschool last night, and I'm feeling more emotional than I expected to about both of these events. I'm beyond excited to have 8 hours per week of writing time when William is at preschool, and cut down on sibling rivalry and general chaos by only having one child at home during school hours, but it's still a milestone to cross, and any milestone becomes complicated emotionally for mothers.
I ran into a friend in town and her youngest is heading to Grade 1 this year. I told her I was jealous - "Think of all of that time you'll have to yourself!" - but she sniffed and said she was feeling really sad about it. There are so many issues at play at any given time for any mom, and until we are standing in someone's shoes, we can't begin to understand how the emotions might hit us.
I have vague, generic memories of my Grade 1 teacher and experiences, but my perceptions are sharper and clearer for Grade 2, and I realize that the memories that Ava is forming now will carry her through the rest of her life. The baby and preschool years are critically important for children, but the memories formed are more like general impressions of love and care. For some reason, I feel the responsibility more keenly now for Ava's specific experiences, and I recognize that she is on the cusp of growing up and away from us.
Ah, perhaps that is the heart of the matter. I celebrate who she is becoming, and where she is about to go in life, but every grade level she increases through means more friends, and laughter, and stories that don't include me. They are for her alone, and will shape her as she grows into the beautiful young woman she will become. It's always so hard for the parents to let go. To release our child's hand, to wave, to blow her a kiss and to watch her find her own wings and walk along the path that is meant for her alone. I cannot follow where she is going, and so it means saying goodbye to the little child, and embracing this new girl who is taking her place.
William is seeing the child psychologist this afternoon for the first time. I'm looking forward to leaning on an outside professional to help me manage his fear and anxiety. At moments on our vacation he was so brave and daring in the pool and while mini golfing, that I began to believe we were out of the woods, and it would all be okay. And then yesterday I was at the dry cleaners, and he could see me through the windows of the van, and his sister was with him, but he began screaming, pulling at his seatbelt, panicking that I was too far away and he couldn't get to me.
Parenting is filled with the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. It's great to live in the in-between, but right now, with the excitement and the stress of easing both kids into school and preschool, it feels like the extremes are winning out, and emotionally I'm taking a beating. In a few weeks, it will all seem easier, but right now it's an uphill climb, and the air is getting thin, and I'm beginning to panic a little. I have to keep calm, and carry on, and call out to my friends for help, for none of us are mothering alone, and encouragement helps us to keep going, believing that we are doing the best we can.