Did you see that? I once again performed my perennial summer social media magic trick. Once the kids got out for summer, I DISAPPEARED, almost entirely. Other than a quick post on the fly or while the passenger on a road trip, I was invisible. It happens every summer and it used to come with a hefty price of self-imposed guilt, but not this year. This year, I offer no apologies. One, because it likely went unnoticed after recent failing grades for participation, but more importantly, because it was our last summer with two Elementary students.
It is crazy. I am pretty sure I was just typing through my tears as I sent off my eldest to Kindergarten. I know I have only experienced the joy of daytime freedom for a brief spell. The few years that followed continued with a mixture of both emotions, not wanting to give up the lazy days of summer and the time with them balanced with a need for some space and more activity for them to expend their endless supply of energy. But this year something shifted.
The day before school began, I was called into my daughter’s room. She was just finishing her First-Day-of-School Mani/pedi and needed a little help touching things up. I sat on her floor and got lost in her face for a moment. The changes, while subtle, added up to what I already knew. I was looking at a young woman. It made me catch my breath.
When she sat down to do her nails, I asked if she wanted help. “No, Mom, I’ve got it.”
When it proved a bit more challenging than she anticipated, when she was feeling frustrated, I got the call.
I have a feeling this is going to be the pattern for a while.
I left her room reflecting and an image of a path came to mind. The rules of the path are changing. It used to be like playing Chutes and Ladders. I was always there to catch her, to stand behind her as she climbed. A direct path with small, benign stumbles. Now, most days feel more like the game of Life. She is making decisions about her future, she is choosing this path or that. I have a feeling some days will feel more like Jumanji, never knowing what dangers are lurking and if there will be any relief. Some are wide enough for us to take them together, others, she will navigate on her own. And while she reaches back for my hand or advice still, she is often busy reaching forward.
As I was cleaning up the polish with a Q-tip, she asked, “How are you so good at that? I can’t do that.”
“Well, honey, it’s not hard it is just that I’ve have had years to practice and figure out these tricks.”
Please, God, let her keep asking for help and let me have a trick to offer.
In the beginning, the physical needs were full-time.The emotional needs were simple: Be available, connect, encourage, respond. Like one big inverse variation graph, with each step toward independence, the physical needs lessens and the emotional needs increase. I’m finding there is a constant push and pull in parenting. Knowing when to save and when to pause. How to support, when to let go. When to ask, when to listen. When to hold the line and when to bend. I wish it were as simple as a mathematic equation.
The first day was just like all of the others. I spent it alternating between gratitude for the quiet and wondering how they were doing.
Do they like their teachers?
Are they a good match?
I hope they have friends in their class.
What will this year bring?
It ended when I picked them up and they came out smiling and excited. That isn’t always the case and I am so grateful. As stories from the day slowly emerged, my daughter announced her commitment to really push herself, to do her best, to stay focused. My son shared a quip or two and went to find lizards. Both filled my heart.
As she was putting on her shoes this morning and getting ready to leave, her self-imposed checklist completed, her lunch packed, she looked up at me and said, “I’m glad you’re my mom.” And just like that, my sweet, independent girl told me that she still needed me. And that felt like a little bit of magic, too.