This morning I had a rite-of-passage experience...I put my children on a big yellow schoolbus and watched it drive away.
Now, I know my kids are 10 and 9, and that all of my mother-friends have already done this a million times, but my kids have been driven to school by Patrick for their entire school career, and so this is new for them, and new for me.
They're off to a day camp for two weeks - for swimming, archery, arts and crafts, that sort of thing. Amelia is excited, Abby is only partly excited ("I love swimming, but I don't want swimming lessons...I don't want to play sports of any kind! Not soccer, not t-ball...I am sure that my mother heard these exact same words from me 30 years ago.) I hope that they will have fun, and I will be using the time to get my house fully finished and organized - finally unpacking the basement, getting junk out of the garage, getting our lives in order and systems in place. And...I will get my hair done and go to the beach alone, for the first time ever, and do a thousand other personal things I don't get to when the kids are around...like the dentist, and the brow-wax lady.
Today, though, I made peanut butter sandwiches and packed their towels and sunscreen and bathing suits, fixed ponytails and watched them walk onto a giant bus that was too crowded. They had to mill around for a bit until the counselor helped them get it organzied....but still, those moments where they paced the aisle, oversized backpacks smacking the seats, trying to negotiate the challenge of finding a place to sit amongst strangers, it was all I could do to not climb on the bus and help them figure it out, solve it for them. Put on my teacher voice and manage the kids so everyone has a place. It's what I do, all the time, everywhere...and yet, I had to let my two precious curly girls manage that on their own.
They're confident, and resilient. We built them like that on purpose, so that when these situations arise, they would boldly create a place for themselves. And I am well-versed in the art of stepping back and allowing them to do that, but there was something about the combination of the big yellow school-bus, and the too-big backpacks, and my own emotional state that left me feeling quite undone.
I have loved every phase with my girls so far, and it's very rare that I look with longing on the past. I honor their past, and I scrapbook the crap out of it, and I loved and savored each phase while it was here. I'm not a person who clings to the past, though there are those who would argue that point. I examine the past, yes. I look at it to understand where I am now, where I'm going, and how I got this way, but I never wish my way back to then. I always believe that the best of times is now, and that wonderful times are around the bend in the road.
This morning, though, I just wish I could go back to the August of nine years ago, with my newborn Abby cradled in my arms, and my one-and-a-half year old Amelia snuggled up against us on the couch, Huggy Bear in her fist, watching Bear in the Big Blue House. No mean girls, not hurt feelings, no negotiations....just comfort and protection and a certainty that I had the power to protect them from harm.
They are not in danger at camp, I know, but they rightfully will have to step out of their comfort zones to try new things, meet new people, and figure out who they are in a new place. I can only hope that the work we've done to fill their toolboxes with confidence will pay off when it matters, when that big yellow bus takes them out of my reach.