My kids went back to school last week. This is remarkable for us because my baby got on the bus too. For 12 years I've welcomed back to school time with a little one in tow. My routines stayed (mostly) the same year round. This year, my world has turned on it's ear.
It started in the summer. "What are you going to do?" is maybe the worst question you can ask someone who is sending all of their kids to school for the first time. First of all, they may not know how to respond exactly.
I went through a period of awkward responses: When my kids get on the bus? Cry...or not. Maybe do a little dance. With all the extra kid-free time? Get a job? Get another degree? Do my laundry? Sit in a room and stare at a wall? No, really, I'm asking you, because I don't know.
I fielded the questions as best as I could and found myself unprepared for the first day. One friend suggested I just let it be. Feel what I feel and do whatever I find myself doing that day without questions or guilt or a big schedule. This seemed right to me.
The bus pulled up and I was certain there would be no tears. And then, he looked up at me and said, "Mom, quick, I need one more kiss." I looked into his beautiful brown eyes and felt my own fill to the brim with tears. "Ok buddy." I kissed him. In my ear, "I love you, mom." I squeezed him, he pulled away, and jumped up the stairs on the bus.
I went home and cried for a bit. Pulled myself together. Posted first day pictures for all of social media to see.
Post after post from my friends detailed their celebratory measures. "Getting a massage and a rainforest shower. Treat yourselves moms!" "Off to the spa, see you at bus time!" "We made it! Time to get my nails done."
While a pedicure sounded nice (and also a bit cliche), what I really wanted to do was clean my kitchen. Perhaps the most boring thing of all. But I did it and felt happy.
The last two weeks have been a bipolar existence. With so much quiet during the day and four loud, emotional kids vying for my attention after 3. The silence that fills my house when the kids leave can be overwhelming. And then, by 8, I'm ready for them to go to bed and be quiet for a bit because they have all just talked at me for 5 hours. When the morning comes again, I'm not sure how to fill the hours of solitude so I can be productive, fulfilled, and efficient. I don't think I'm meant to figure it out so soon and thankfully my husband and friends are encouraging me to take it slow. This is a temporary limbo.
So, as I'm navigating this new transition (which I suck at) I have found much more time for reading. I use the Beverly Cleary prototype for DEAR (drop everything and read) and whenever I can, I pick up a book or stream audible on my phone.
Books are my version of "me time." I know I couldn't maintain a schedule filled with massages and pedicures (no matter how much I would love that) but I know that next month, when I will be tackling house projects, developing a regular cleaning schedule, and volunteering at school I will still have my books.