Find the symbolism in transition

FullSizeRenderFor the past week or so, my emotions have been tied in knots. I’ve watched on Facebook as many of my friend’s kids have started kindergarten and with each post, happy family picture, and report on how the first day went, I’ve become more and more overwhelmed with emotion. Their milestone moments are just days before ours, and the anticipation is staggering. Tomorrow is my daughter’s last day of preschool. At 6pm, she will “graduate” from the small center where she has been since she was four months old and transition next week to elementary school. Where did the time go?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why the emotion has become so heightened for me, and at best, I can think of a few reasons.

  1. Aside from the transition from maternity leave to daycare, this is the first real transition my daughter will have. Her cognitive memory exists solely in our daycare – it’s all she has ever known. The loving teachers, parents, and friends are her safe haven away from home. The kids she plays with on the playground are the same kids from the baby room who popped their pacifiers in her mouth when she was sad. The environment, the rules, the classrooms – all of it is not just familiar, it’s all there is. Soon, she will be propelled into a new school, new classroom, new community, new teachers, new kids who will become her friends and she will start from scratch. She’s an adaptable, social, curious kid and I’m not worried about her, but I am certainly aware of how quickly her comfort will get thrown out of whack until she finds her way again.
  2. Even before my oldest was born, people would tell me “it goes fast.” And while I believed them, I could never have understood just how fast it goes. While putting my older two girls to bed the other night, I told each of them the story of the days they were born. As I snuggled my eldest and told her about that first moment when they put her on my chest and she looked up at me, I found myself suddenly fighting back tears. Wasn’t that just yesterday? Didn’t she just take her first steps? Say her first words? Throw her first tantrum? When did she become a kid? (As she says, “I’m not a little kid anymore, I’m a child.” Indeed you are, baby girl.) I know it’s only going to go faster and faster. I know that the symbolism of her graduating from preschool tomorrow is a precursor to her graduating from high school, and in between there will be a blur of wonderful memories of a childhood that will inevitably go by too fast…after all, everyone says it’s true.
  3. My daughter isn’t the only one going through transition tomorrow. My husband and I are too. I’ll never forget how warm and welcoming the day care director was on our tour with our oldest still in utero. She said to us, “Our goal is to provide as loving a home here as you would yourselves. If you can’t be with your baby, we want to be a partner in parenting and make sure your baby knows how loved it is.” No other daycare we toured came close to saying that. And she lived up to her word. Overall they have provided a loving place while we went to work every day. It’s not easy to leave, but it is easier when you know your family is in good hands. At our daycare, we’ve made some amazing friendships. We’ve found community and we’ve built our village. It’s not just our daughter who is flying the nest, but it’s us too. Of course, we still have two more kids at the daycare center, and we will maintain friendships long after we leave there. But still, the symbolism of our own transition cuts deep. We are starting out again in a new school, new community and new potential friends and we will forge our way as well.

the road ahead

Tomorrow’s graduation and Tuesday’s first day of school are both huge milestone moments for our family. They are symbolic and emotional, overwhelming and exciting, real and unbelievable all at the same time. I don’t know what the future holds and I don’t know what to expect as we begin our journey into the world of elementary school. All I know is that I will cheer for our daughter as she graduates tomorrow, hug her extra tight when I leave her new classroom on Tuesday, and will savor every moment with each of our girls as they grow up before our eyes…inevitably, way too fast.

Finding safety in numbers

A funny thing happens when you have kids – you are suddenly and simultaneously filled with love, awe and amazement (not to mention the slight fear that this tiny being is relying utterly and entirely on you for everything), while also catapulted into a new kind of loneliness and isolation that exists among midnight feedings, sleepless nights and the depths of mother(or father)hood. This juxtaposition is jarring and unexpected no matter how much planning and preparation new parents go through. I went through this with both my of my babies, and both times was shocked at these conflicting feelings and experiences.

with elizabeth

Courtesy of a three year old future photographer

Before having kids, I’d heard that motherhood was the next transition point in friendship – where some friends would inevitably disappear and others would emerge. The actualization of this transition was stark. As predicted, some friendships dimmed as our priorities shifted farther apart (and some showed their true strength), and I made some incredible new friends through daycare drop-offs, play dates, the occasional parents’ night out and random evenings of sneaking out after the kids go to bed to meet a girlfriend for a scoop of ice cream (yes, the drink of our twenties has been replaced with the ice cream scoop of our thirties… and we’re okay with that).

A few nights ago I had an opportunity to get a rare mother’s night out with a friend whose daughter is exactly one week younger than my second child. We reminisced about our pregnancies and the agony of waiting those final few (uncomfortable, sleepless, anticipation-riden) weeks before our daughters were born. However, the real shared experiences came in the weeks and months after the births of our bundles of joy. They came in the 3am text conversations we had while desperately rocking our kids to sleep, and in the midday maternity leave FaceTime chats that ultimately evolved into each of us staring at the other’s ceilings while trying to breastfeed/pump/get the baby to take the bottle. It was in those moments that I understood some of the deepest and most raw moments of friendship.

This wasn’t the first time that I experienced this kind of safety in numbers. When my first daughter was born, I joined a local mother’s group, thinking it would give me a chance to get to know other women in my new neighborhood and get out of the house with my young baby for a while. Never could I have imagined how life altering joining the group would be. Every Friday, six to ten of us would meet in someone’s living room and spread blankets on the floor for the babies to “play” while we swapped stories about poop, sleep cycles, sore nipples, and extreme exhaustion (ah, motherhood!). These women became my lifeline to a new normal, and without those Friday mornings, midnight texts and crazy stories, I’m not sure I would have made it sanely (mostly) through those early months of motherhood.

Although we see each other less now (and get a bit more sleep…on a good day), those are the ties that bind. We celebrate that fact every few months with a mother’s night out and a bottle of wine. There is a shared bond that we have — that all mothers have — that is an unspoken but real link between us. That’s not to say that I don’t cherish (and need!) my friendships with those without children (I DO!), or those that are not women (I DO!), but more to say that the safety and security that comes in numbers (and text messages) at 3am is not to be taken lightly.

How have you found your own safety in numbers?