Back to School.
I’m reading all the Facebook posts and seeing all your pictures on Instagram of your baby loves heading back to school in their new uniforms and tennis shoes that have just enough wiggle room…the summer sunshine mixed with pool chlorine no doubt serves as a juvenile cocktail for growth spurts.
“Child. How can the pants you wore 12 weeks ago be three inches too short?!”
Am I lying? No. You know it’s true. Kids sprout in the summer.
A photo is a must. I’m loving all the new ways to document the year…the letter boards declaring their age, grade and a quote…
Annabelle 6, 1st grade. “I like Dora the Explorer and bacon.”
We didn’t have letter boards or Instagram when my girls were little..Let me think what I would have shared for this first day back picture…
Paige 8, 3rd grade. I like tweety bird and having my own room.
Laken 5, Kindergarten. I like to pick out my own clothes and this dress is stupid.
Ask my girls about the year I was burning up with a fever on their first day back…I stumble out of my bedroom just as they are preparing to exit the infirmary and insist on a picture. “Wait, girls! Lemme get your picture.” Hunched over in a wrinkled oversized t-shirt and my underwear I capture another “first”. I didn’t want to miss it. I won’t miss it.
That’s what we do…we snap one photo after another…trying to stop time and freeze moments in squares.
You will blink and it’s Christmas Break.
You will blink again and need to blink real fast to hold back tears as they walk across the stage and close this chapter.
You feed and clothe and teach and nurture your birdies for 18 years then in what seems like a minute they leave home and you have boring couches where the pillows stay in the same place for weeks… The same five loads of repetitive laundry with socks that stick with their partners…Their rooms feel stark and hollow without their personalities and your refrigerator is left with mayonnaise and ketchup that will be tossed before consumed. Where is everyone?! It’s a ghost town up in here.
Empty Nest Syndrome is not something that lasts a scientifically researched set amount of time and then dissipates…no, ENS comes and goes in waves…waves of nostalgia dipped and battered in crocodile tears. Odds are it was brought on by a song, or commercial or seeing another mom loving on her baby. The onset and symptoms may vary but the cure is universal: Hearing that they still need you and watching them build their own nests with some of the love, comfort and care that you desperately tried to teach.
It goes by fast. It goes by more. than. fast.
Back When It Didn’t Feel So Fast…
School days were hard. Getting them all out the door happy was my personal mission impossible. If all three of them were chipper and satisfied with what they were wearing and how their hair looked, I knew to get right with Jesus…He was on His way. Get right with the Lord! I’m dropping them happy girls off and going back home to curl up in my designated “quiet time” chair with my half-attempted Beth Moore bible study so when He finds me He shall find me faithful.
Can I stop and chase a rabbit for a minute?…Those bible studies. Y’all. I tried so hard to emulate some of the precious women in my church that spoke spiritual discipline into my life. They were all about having a quiet time. They had comfy chairs in carefully selected corners next to a small table bedecked with a lamp giving off a perfect 60 watt glow. Along with the lamp was a bible, a stack of current books from Lifeway Christian Book Store and a fill in the blank bible study. The chair was accented with a throw in complimentary colors to place in their lap while they sipped coffee, prayed and dug into The Word at 5 am. Girls. I tried. I did. Except I was tired as hell. I blamed my borderline anemia and the dry West Texas winds for my eternal fatigue but the truth was I was tired from all the pressure to be perfect. Jesus and I had an ongoing conversation…like I started praying from the time my feet hit the ground and never said Amen. I prayed they loved their teachers, made good friends with good values, felt and held onto their worth, felt safe and WERE safe. Like, I would start out strong then find myself saying, hold on…I’ll be back…don’t leave…I’ve just got to see if I can find her other shoe and get them to school on time but I still have some things to say…and ask of You. I never wanted to raise my kids without Him. It just seemed like I couldn’t measure up. I mixed what was meant to be grace and mercy and my greatest love story with shades of shame, self- defeating talk and a focus on inadequacy. Just as the enemy would have wanted. I wish I could go back and release Young Mama Gina from the standards I thought I needed to meet.
Now back to the Back to School Blogging…
I cannot recall a time when all three of my girls liked the same thing in their lunches. It was mayonnaise for one, mustard for another and PB&J for the third. Which one hates turkey? Which one wants vanilla pudding? Crisis Alert: I only have two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos left…someone is getting regular Lay’s…please forgive me. Dear Lord Jesus…please don’t let her starve today and please help her pass her spelling test on an empty stomach if I fail to pack the provisions necessary in order for her to do so.
But this… THIS tops all of that…
‘Twas the night before a new school year and I called for the customary family meeting. We gathered in the lamplit living room and I began my rhetoric.
“This year will be different. My expectations are higher. Paige you will be in middle school, Laken at Devonian, and Hannah starts kindergarten…This will mean I’ll have 3 kids at 3 different schools. The ONLY way I can pull this off is if we ALL cooperate.”
I then began my well comprised list of To Do’s…
Eat breakfast and brush your teeth before you get dressed. I don’t want toaster strudel icing or toothpaste on your clothes. Eat naked if you have to but DO NOT eat or brush your teeth after you’ve dressed. And you better brush your teeth.
I will not sign ANY papers or check homework in the mornings. I won’t. I mean it. All of this needs to be taken care of the night before or it doesn’t get taken care of…
Speaking of homework…get your homework done before you do anything…like right when you get home. Before you watch Lizzie McGuire…before you jump on the trampoline…They nod in agreement and I carry on…I made sure we would be on our toes this year…like professional ballerinas on pointe. No more lazy up in this house.
I finish my New School Year Dissertation when Paige raises her hand.
“Can I say something.”
“Can you stop saying crap so much?”
The room got oddly quiet and I got uncomfortable…
Yes. Yes, Paige. I…I will stop saying crap.
There I was dropping the law and cultivating a plan for a smooth as butter school year and all my daughter wanted was for me to not say crap?
You could feel the struggle to hold in laughter. It didn’t take long for this stuffy meeting to make some great memories. I love it.
Attempts at perfection are nothing more than catalysts for profanity.
Perfection still makes me say crap.
Good Lawsy…I WISH I could tell you the worst thing I ever did as a mom was illicit a synonym for cow pies upon moments of frustration.
My rap sheet is longer than that.
With all my babies out of school…officially as of last Saturday…Go Hannah and Praise Jesus…I come at you from The Other Side as an encourager of peace and gently ask you to slow down and take it easy. It’s messy sometimes. It’s messy MOST of the times…
Beds won’t get made. Papers won’t get signed. The breakfast of your champions might some days include Teddy Grahams and a Diet Dr. Pepper. Dirty gym clothes found in a backpack on the way to school will fly under the stink radar thanks to a quick spritz of Victoria’s Secret body spray…and brace yourself for this one…retainers will be accidentally thrown in the lunchroom trash can…more than once.
You will one day long for these moments. Moments you will treasure more once they pass, but learning to treasure them now will serve your heart well later.
And when nostalgia comes knocking and you long for the noise and the busy and the days you can’t get back…the days that sometimes made you say doggy doo but also the days that gave you meaning and purpose and crazy beautiful joy…
Something as simple as one of your babies calling to ask for something that they remember as part of the place they called home will remind you that a part of you will forever be with them…
Mom…Can I get your taco soup recipe?
You know you can…