I am on the verge of a whole new world. For the entirety of my adult life, I have been parenting little ones. I never thought I would see the end of diapers and pull ups, irrational temper tantrums, snuggling chubby toddlers to sleep, or devoting every waking/resting minute to the survival of small humans. I was perfectly happy with that, and in fact I was sad at the thought of that season ever coming to an end, no matter how hard it could be or how exhausted I was. I have absolutely loved parenting preschoolers and babies.
My little ones are turning into big ones: 10, eight, six, and four, and I have been desperately clinging to these last moments of having a preschooler.
I was one of the crazy women who were actually excited to keep all my kids home for distance learning because I thought that these nine weeks would delay the inevitable. My little one was scheduled to start pre-k in August, and it broke my heart. These stolen weeks together have been just what I needed to prepare myself for this next phase of our lives. My four-year-old Shiloh is fierce and extroverted and so incredibly smart. She has been ready to take flight, but my heart needed to keep her in the nest just a little bit longer.
I have mourned each one of my children starting school because it marked the end of our precious days together.
With each of my three boys, I cry daily for a week or two, but then when I see them thriving and happy I know it has been the best for them and then the sadness and guilt subside. With Shiloh, I expect I will feel the same for her but this time I have a little extra mourning to do. Selfishly, I am scared of what my life will feel like now without any of my tiny sidekicks. Literally every aspect of my days will be different. There is a freedom in that, and I won’t pretend that doesn’t excite me somewhat. However, it’s a freedom I haven’t had before and I am anticipating mostly feeling lonely and anxious and frankly useless.
I have been processing the end of this chapter for a while.
Last year, a group of my closest friends were all eagerly planning to conceive their second babies. I happily celebrated their announcements. I watched their beautiful bellies grow. My heart swelled with joy when I held their sweet newborns. All along the way I had this ache inside me because even though I had a big family of my own, it was painful to realize that I would never experience something I loved so much again.
I also realized once you have school age children and not babies, your social situation changes. It feels like five minutes ago that I had a baby, but I am already losing touch with the newest gadgets and boutiques. My conversations no longer center around sleep schedules and teething remedies and potty training. When I am in these conversations, I feel like moms with babies and toddlers look at me like I’m some old pioneer woman. It sounds ridiculous, but there honestly is a noticeable difference. That stuff just doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore even though it was all consuming just a few moments ago. Instead, I’m worrying about my children’s work ethic and learning common core math and convincing my 10-year-old to wear deodorant. I get to sleep through the night. My kids are old enough to have hilarious senses of humor. I can let them have some independence to play which gives me a break. I definitely do NOT miss wiping poop off people multiple times a day. There are definitely perks to having older kids. And then there is Shiloh, my last tether to my old life. Too old to worry about toddler troubles, but still young enough to keep me as a stay-at-home mom for a few more weeks.
So here I am in limbo, full of feelings and fears and hope and regret. Did I love them hard enough while they were only mine? Did I yell too much? Will they love me as much when they all are busy with school and sports and friends? Maybe I can go to the gym once I drop them off at school. Maybe I can finally finish my degree. I can have lunch dates with my husband at work! I can work as much as I want or need. Who do I want to be in this next season of life? How in the world do you parent a preteen?