More Waking Hours With Than Not

5

March 14, 2013 by Julia

So, Fiona goes to kindergarten in the fall. This is huge, for me and for her.

When she was just a baby, I couldn’t imagine the day that she’d start elementary school. It was like a mirage – on the horizon, but not real.

I also didn’t know when or if we’d be able to have second child, so as far as I knew, I’d get pregnant as soon as we sent Fiona off to school, and then start all over again with the baby-thru-preschooler stages. I had no plan for what I would do during the school years, in part because our pregnancies didn’t seem to want to coincide with our plans.

But now that we have Jack, who is growing faster than I am comfortable with, and now that school is happening later this year for Fiona, I can see those school days; I can almost taste them. They taste like relief about maybe possibly having more time during the day to get my house together/be creative/have a little elbow room to myself during Jack’s nap. They also taste like wonder that we’ve made it to this point, and like sadness that my girl, whom I’ve spent more waking hours with than not for the past five years, is going somewhere without me. It’s strange. It’s bittersweet. (There’s that word, again – one of my favorites.)

She’s going somewhere that will at turns be thrilling, brutal, lonely, inspiring, or boring. I think we’re ready, her and me. It’s just that…those first few weeks are going to be a major adjustment. And I’ve been surprised by the realization that, heck yes, I am going to bawl my eyes out on her first day. I’m going to miss her. From that point on, things will be different. It will truly be the end of an era. The “Fiona & Me at Home Era.”

I assume that parenting will be easier, for a while. (Correct me if I’m wrong, parents of older kids!) The elementary school years are supposed to comprise the golden age of childhood, right? And then when Jack starts school in three and a half years, well, I assume that I’ll finally be able to write another novel, or get back into sending out my first one to agents, or both. It’s true that I might feel guilty just staying home pursuing my dreams when I could be bringing home some bacon (bits, most likely). But I like to think the eight years of staying at home with young children (by that point) would have earned me the right to “take a year off” – if not going to an out-of-the-home job while your children are in school can be called that.

Either way, whether I’ve got a job or not, having elementary school-aged children sounds just lovely. I think we can all agree that as parents, it’s preferable to have both quality time with our kids, and quality time away from our kids, and when you send them off to school five days a week, that balance is restored. Ahhh. As much as I love staying home with Fiona and Jack, my ideal day would probably involve a little more me-time than is currently possible. (Shocker, I know!)

I imagine that by the time I go to meet them at the bus stop, I’ll be excited to see them and hear about their day, I’ll be missing them a bit, I’ll be ready to give them my full attention for a while, or help them to wind down. I can’t wait for the opportunity to miss them on a daily basis. It’s a sweet feeling that I only get to experience once in a blue moon, these days.

The ending of this babyhood era with Fiona has got me thinking, too, about the fact that maybe this growing up thing does go pretty fast. It didn’t seem fast, at first. Fiona’s first year of life went by incredibly slowly. I was so anxious to hear her talk, to see her walk, and it seemed like we had to wait forever (even though she did both right on schedule). But now that we are reaching the end of something, I realize, it may not be that long until we reach the end of her childhood, and she becomes a teenager. I mean, ten-year-old girls basically act like teens, don’t they? She’s already halfway there!

I guess what I’m trying to say in this rambling post is: I suddenly have more of a big picture perspective on parenthood. I can see beyond our present situation. I like this perspective, even as it breaks my heart, a little.

Now I’m going to look at pictures of her and I from the beginning, and cry.

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5 thoughts on “More Waking Hours With Than Not

  1. Karen says:

    I’m debating whether or not I should break the news to you, but I guess I will: in my opinion, parenting gets way harder once your kid starts school. Prior to this point, it’s your own little world where you set the schedule, you make the rules, you are the Supreme Dictator (or not. Maybe your household is more democratic than mine) Anyway, school introduces a whole new cast of characters, all with their own issues, and lots of new things to navigate for both parents and kids. Suddenly there is another adult (the teacher) who your child views as an absolute God, and who thinks they know what is best for your child and has the authority to inflict their philosophy onto your family (or at least one member of it). I’m not talking big issues here (no one was trying to convert my daughter to Rastafarianism), but I kind of objected to my kid being forced to sit still and be quiet for long periods of the day. It just seemed all sorts of wrong. The school was trying to turn my lovely unique little person into some conforming robot!

    🙂

    Anyway, it’s a new adventure for you both. But I’m not saying it gets any easier . . .

    • Julia says:

      Thanks for totally bursting my bubble…waaaahhh! No, I appreciate you giving your true thoughts on the matter. I really did want parents of older kids to chime in – I’d much rather go into our first year of school with realistic expectations than to naively assume certain things.

      I have been aware that it will be a whole new ballgame socially (and academically, of course), and that part will be more draining in a way we haven’t yet experienced. But I still think the part where I’ll literally have more than six hours a day without kids vs. my current NO hours of the day without children to care for must make life a little easier, practically speaking. I can’t give up hope that I will manage to get more stuff done, and have a little more space and peace (of the kind where I can just stop for a moment), once school starts!

      But I do agree that it seems wrong to make such young children sit still for long stretches of the day. I don’t approve of the full schedule that is Kindergarten these days. That part will definitely be a challenge – along with getting my day-dreamy and stubborn daughter to do her homework even if she doesn’t feel like it.

      Thanks for your comment…so much more valuable than a plain old “like,” haha 🙂

  2. Lara says:

    Oh, those pictures got to me! I could have written this post exactly a year ago. My daughter and I were in the same place – both of us ready for something more while missing what used to be. I have to admit that it is nice to have the break during the day to devote some quality time to the boys. (I SO look forward to nap time!) Now I can’t believe this year of kindergarten is winding down. I’m not ready for a first grader!

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