About a week before school started, I looked at the calendar to decide what fun things we were going to do with our last bits of summer. I hadn’t been keeping up with dates and things — each day of parks and swimming and endless sibling bickering bled into the next — until I finally looked at the calendar. I looked and then looked again. In my mind, school didn’t start for about 14 more days, but the calendar didn’t agree. When I realized we only had a week left, tears gathered in my eyes and I felt the heaviness of the looming school year.
I have always hated when they leave. Even when I need a break so badly I could pull my hair out, I hate when they leave. But this year it felt heavier. Maybe because I wasn’t prepared for it to come so quickly. Maybe because our summer felt like it flew by faster than normal. Maybe because my emotions are all over the map since my Dad died. But in that moment, I felt the weight of enduring an entire year before I can breathe that sigh of relief in May when they come home.
All of these thoughts and emotions lasted about five minutes before one of the kids came screaming into the kitchen with a long list of complaints about the other two. “He took my toy!” “She won’t let me play my way!” “They not being fair!”
And over the course of the next few days, the bickering reached an all-summer high and I forgot about how much I was going to miss them and was secretly counting down the days until all three kids got a break from each other.
The day before school was spent double-checking supply lists and rounding up backpacks, first-day outfits and shoes. I could feel the irritation slowly seeping out and the sadness creeping back in.
When we dropped them off at school, I hugged them for a few extra seconds, took the usual picture in front of the school and said goodbye as my sweet girls walked away as third graders.
I stood there a moment and just watched them go as the tears filled my eyes. I spent the rest of the morning missing them. Missing their arguments over the silliest of things, missing them bopping around the house, missing the constant “Hey, Mom!”
When we picked them up from school, I was loading Henry’s stroller into the back and I could hear the girls getting ready to start up another argument about something silly. Three weeks ago, I would have rolled my eyes and barked at them to shut it down. Instead, I hung my head a bit and smiled. I was so very happy to hear them arguing — to have them back with all of their laughs and irritations and non-stop talking.
And that led to my mini-epiphany. I have known from the moment they were born that I was going to miss them someday. But I always assumed I would just miss the lovely parts about them like when they say something cute or funny or when they say out of the blue, “I love you, Mom.” I assumed time would erase all of the moments of frustration, irritation and anger like when I asked them to go to bed 47 times and they got up a 48th time.
But I’m beginning to think that when the day comes and they leave the nest for good, I won’t just be missing the magical moments. I’ll be missing all of it — all of them. And when the older and wiser women around tell us to “soak it up,” they don’t just mean the good parts. Soak up the bickering because someday, the house will be too quiet. Soak up the endless questions and “hey, mom!” because someday, they won’t call. Soak up the messy bathroom and the towels that refuse to be hung up because someday, they won’t be here to drop them on the floor.
So, that’s my plan while I wait for May. Soak it all up. Every last bit.