Since the day my eldest child was born over five years ago, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom — first just to my son, and then to his younger sister, born two and a half years later.
My first years of motherhood have already started to blur together, a seemingly endless stream of diaper changes and sleepless nights.
For months after my daughter was born, I wasn’t sure I would ever figure out how to balance taking care of a baby and a toddler at the same time, but before I knew what was happening, I wasn’t the mother of a baby and a toddler anymore.
In less than three months, my son will start kindergarten. It’s a milestone my husband and I sometimes dreamed about in the midst of the “survival mode” of having a baby and a toddler in the house.
“Things will be much easier someday when the kids are in school,” we’d say to each other. “We’ll have more free time. We can go on lunch dates! We can take naps!”
My husband is an emergency room physician, which means that there’s no such thing as “normal business hours” for him. His schedule involves working weekends, nights, and holidays, so there are weeks and even months when alone time for us is scarce while our two young kids are awake all day and my husband is working nights.
So, in the midst of sleep deprivation and not enough quality time, we began an internal countdown to the day when we would start to get a little more time for just the two of us.
Now our son is 5 years old, and suddenly, someday is shockingly close. I’ve spent more than a year trying to gradually get him ready to make the transition from staying home with me all day to being at school seven hours a day.
We enrolled him in preschool two days a week. We took him to church Sunday school. We hired babysitters for date nights.
I read articles and tried different techniques to help him make the adjustment. I’ve focused so much on preparing him that I was caught off guard when I realized that I am the one who is ill-prepared.
As a stay-at-home mom, I’ve spent almost every day of the last five years with my son. There have been many days that seemed to drag on forever, and yet somehow, five years have flown by in the blink of an eye.
Soon, my son will spend most of his daylight hours away from me, and I feel like digging in my heels in an attempt to make time to stop. I thought I would be excited for school to start, but it turns out that I’m not.
Between our two kids, the next 16 years will revolve around school schedules. We’ll set alarm clocks and plan vacations around school holidays. We’ll pack lunches and lay out outfits on weeknights, so that we’re not rushing around every morning looking for socks.
Any activities or appointments during the school year will have to be done after school or on the weekend. For the first time, I’m realizing how very much freedom we had in our long days at home, and how our mundane, repetitive schedule was actually a short-lived luxury.
Already our summer is filling up: day camp at the zoo and family vacation and swim lessons. And there, on the August calendar, looming ahead of me and marching ever closer, are the words “First Day of School.”
I am not ready.
I want time to slow down. I want to snuggle and read books and play in the backyard and “sleep in” until 7:45 a.m. I want this to be the longest summer ever, because when it ends, so will my days of having my little boy with me all the time.
I have been preparing for this since I first saw two pink lines on a pregnancy test. The long, slow process of gradually letting go and giving my son space to be his own person.
I know this is just one in a series of many of the “letting go” milestones. It’s not the first, and it won’t be the last: Sleepovers and overnight summer camp and college all are stretched out in the years ahead of me.
For now, my little boy is still home with me. Today, I can look at his sweet face any time I want, so I will live in the moment and spend as much time as I can with my baby boy. And when school begins, I’ll start a new countdown to next summer, when he’s all mine again.