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I suppose this post is less of a “tip” and more of a “‘quip”… or perhaps, more aptly put, simply the latest in my musings on motherhood….

Last month, the “baby” of one of my good friends turned five.  “Hey,” she said to me, “we made it!  We did it! We don’t have babies anymore.”  Her tone was a bit more sad than celebratory as we both reflected on her words. It was true.  We made it.  We did it! We survived sleepless nights, “terrible twos”, potty training and preschool.   And somehow, that made us both just a little bit sad as we looked at the frolicking five-year olds in front of us.

Two weeks ago, a woman I work with was talking about her son.  Her “baby” is enjoying his first year of college.  In so many ways, she felt like she did it.  She made it.  She survived 18 years of motherhood, the last few punctuated by band practices and college applications.  She raised a responsible young man who is studying at the school of his dreams.  Finally, she can sleep at night.  Until that night when the phone rang.  The road was icy.  The car spun out.  Thank God everyone was ok.  But sleepless nights have returned.  The worry is back.

A few days ago, we took our clan out to dinner. It was the first day of spring, my husband just finished a huge project for work and last but not least, we had five (FIVE!) good report cards to celebrate.  As we ambled into the restaurant, we bumped into friends dining solo – just the parents; no kids.  “They didn’t want to come with us,” he said.  “One is babysitting, one is at a friend’s house and one just doesn’t like to be seen with us,” she said.  This got me thinking.  Yikes.  That could be us one day.  One day much sooner than I expect.  Or am ready for.

Last Monday, I met my parents, my brother and his girlfriend for St. Patrick’s Day – a holiday near and dear to our Irish roots.  We met for lunch, took in the parade and then went to warm up over a cold pint and clever conversation.  When my brother and his girlfriend left, I noticed my mom’s eyes well up with tears.  “What is it Mom?”   “He’s happy,” she said.  “I’m just so glad he’s happy.”   And that’s when I realized, this parenthood thing never ends.

Until, perhaps, the unthinkable happens and it does.  They say no parent should outlive a child, but it happens.  And from what I can tell, there’s nothing worse.

Yesterday, we went to a memorial service.  He was 50; Mom was 80.  Give or take a few years.  It doesn’t matter.  It was heart-wrenching.  Gut wrenching. Tragic.  Wrong. Incomprehensible.  I suppose you might say he was a grown man.  But that doesn’t change the fact that he was a son, her son.  The sad sad scene reminded me of a favorite bedtime story we read when our children were younger, Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch, which has a line that repeats again and again:

I’ll love you forever,
 I’ll like you for always, 
As long as I’m living, 
my baby you’ll be.

These words brought tears to my eyes each time we read it, as they do now.  As they did last night, when I watched a mother say a final good-bye to her son.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve witnessed other mother’s milestones on this journey we call parenthood –  rites of passage: turning five;  going to college; seeking independence; finding happiness. It’s what we wish for our children.  And then it struck me, at some point all of our wishes are for our children.  For their health and happiness.  For their longevity.

It doesn’t always work out that way.  And so, with another mother’s pain etched firmly in my memory, all I can do is try harder to live in the moment as I prepare for the rocky road ahead, for the inevitable twists and turns of motherhood.  Knowing, as I do, that always and forever, my babies they’ll be.

Tonight was one of those nights.  It started with a mad dash from work to pick up my oldest from baseball practice.  No, it’s not spring yet and yes, the season here has already started.  And yes, I am just a little bitter about it.  Especially since signing our son up for this league was my husband’s idea but he can’t pick our fella up tonight because he is working late. Again.

In fairness, he rarely works late but for the past three weeks, he’s had a big project that has left me consistently home alone.  Well, not truly alone but, alone with our five kids on hectic weeknights and busy weekends.  I think I”m burning out and if tonight is any indication, our kids are too.  This is how it unfolded…

The baseball pick up was seamless.  I was on time and we were on our way home in no time at all.  Then the gas light went on.  No, we didn’t run out of gas but yes, it was another pitstop on the way home to my four other children, all of whom greeting me at the door like this:

AAAHHHHH.  WAAAAAHHHHHHH.  HE DID IT! SHE DID IT! AAAAAAHHHH!!! WAAAAHHHH!  I DIDN’T DO IT!!!!!

OMG, I thought to myself, this is going to be a doozie.  My daughter was coming down the steps bawling that she had just “bashed” her head into the wall.  One triplet was screaming and holding his hand out.  It revealed a very swollen finger that had apparently been slammed in a door by the young lady with the head wound.  With my coat still on, I went to the kitchen for ice packs.  When I opened the freezer, another triplet demanded frozen berries.  When I said “No, sorry buddy, we have fresh berries so let’s eat them first and save the frozen ones for another day,” he went off the deep end.  “I WANT FROZEN BERRIES!  FROZEN BERRIES, FROZEN BERRIES, FROZEN BERRIES!”, he wailed, adding to cacaphony of the wounded with ice packs.

At that point, my oldest asked (again), if he could go play basketball.  He hadn’t had dinner, hadn’t taken a shower, hadn’t finished his homework and had already asked twice and been told no.  I felt like screaming at him but knew that if I joined in the din, things would only get worse.  So, I said yes, under the logic that having one less kid in the house during this most witching of all hours would only be a good thing.  So he left. And then there were four.  And me.

I didn’t know what to do.  Three were screaming and one was scheming, whispering to the Berry Boy that he should just go ahead and help himself to those frozen berries.  I was exhausted; they were out of control.  It was 6:47.  “It’s time for bed,” I said, not knowing what else to do.  The wailing persisted as we went upstairs but quieted down as the library books came out and we read about baby bears, a platypus and a mouse named Geronimo Stilton.  At one point, as I was getting their toothbrushes, I looked out at the setting sun and thought “this too shall pass” as I took a deep breath.  And it did.  Thank God!

By 8:00, four of them were in bed and sound asleep.  My big guy was back from basketball, showered and together we ate dinner.  We talked about his day and he revealed that he’d gotten his report card.  We took a look together and it was good.  Very good.  He’s a good kid.  They are all good kids.  And, like all of us, they have bad moments and we have bad days. And nights.

Tonight was the exception, not the rule.  Our house, like most, I believe, is like that old nursery rhyme, “When it’s good, it’s very very good and when it’s bad, it’s horrid.”  Tonight was horrid.  But it’s over.  Tomorrow the sun will rise again and a new day will begin.  And, like most days, I suspect it will be very very good.

A few weeks ago, with resolutions top of mind and a renewed zeal to be a better me this year, I came across a great article on the Huffington Post about yelling.    About why we yell, the negative impact it has on our kids and how to stop yelling so much.  You should check it out.  The author, Rachel Macy Stafford, has a lot more street cred than I do.  She has a Masters in education, is a certified special-ed teacher, an author and I’m sure a whole lot more.  But like me, she is a Mom.  Unlike me, she is a Mom who has found a way to stop yelling.  I’m not there yet.  But I’d like to think that I’m on my way.  It seems that Rachel has crossed the finish line to a yell-free victory party and I’m just approaching the starting line.  But really, what better place to start?

Her article got me seriously thinking.  Why do I yell so much?  Many of the reasons are the ones she cites — we’re about to miss the bus or we’re late for soccer/baseball/basketball/lacrosse/church/the dentist,/the doctor/etc.  Or perhaps the kids opened a gift meant for a birthday party (which happened just last weekend).  Maybe they splashed water out of the tub or spilled a glass of milk/water/juice.  In short, like Rachel, I often yell when our kids are just being kids, doing the goofy, inevitable things kids do.  This is a huge realization for me.  They are just being kids!  And I’m sure yours are too.  Maybe you don’t yell as much as I do, but the next time the eggs hit the floor when a budding baker is just trying to help, I’m going to think twice and remember, “he’s just a kid.”

Of course, it’s not that easy.  If I think about why I really yell, it’s not because I’m mad about the box of Cheerios on the floor or the sopping wet bathroom.  It’s because I am tired.  Exhausted.  Frustrated.  Overwhelmed.  At my wits end.  I’ve been known to stoop down to their level, the level where on a good day, I look them in the eye with empathy and understanding and provide an encouraging word or a hug. But on a bad day, well, it’s really bad.  And I’m not proud of it.  I’m not proud of looking a little person in the eye and yelling with all my might.  It’s not pretty.  It’s ugly.  And it’s scary. And I don’t want my kids to be scared of me.

That was Rachel’s ah-hah moment – the moment she realized she was scaring her daughter.  I know I’ve scared mine.  And my four sons too.  But still I yell.  I do think there are different types of yelling — quite frankly, sometimes I have to yell to simply be heard above the din of our clamoring clan. Although, I’m sure an expert would say that’s no excuse.  And it doesn’t change the fact that I’d like to yell less.

Going cold turkey is unrealistic but a little (and hopefully one day a lot) less yelling is my goal.  I want to stop, for so many reasons.  For starters, it’s mean.  Rotten, mean and nasty.  And generally speaking, I’m not.  Or at least I’d like to think I’m not.   Then, there’s the aftermath of the “Big Yell”.  It’s not over when it’s over.  They remember. I remember.  And we all feel crappy.  I don’t want us to all feel crappy.  Happy beats crappy any day, right?  And last but not least, while the snow blows and wind howls today, in just a few short months, those windows will be open.  And I don’t want to scare the neighbor’s kids either!

So, before winter turns to spring, I’m going to do my best to yell less.  To take a breath. To walk away.  To remember they are just kids.  And they won’t be forever…

 

A new year, a new reason to celebrate: small successes!

A new year, a new reason to celebrate: small successes!

Where to begin?  I unwittingly took a “blog break” toward the end of 2013 although, in the big scheme of life, there wasn’t much of a break at all.  Since my last post on October 9th…

  • We celebrated four of our five kids’ birthdays (the 5th was actually October 6th.  Oh, and the dog was Oct. 5th.  And our anniversary was Oct. 12th!).
  • We continued to navigate the homework challenges, social scheduling and daily juggling that hit fever pitch once the triplets hit kindergarten in September.
  • We made strides in conquering the new core curriculum that turned our otherwise confident 2nd and 4th graders into whining ninnies.  And me too.
  • We dealt with leaky pipes, missing storm windows, a minor electrical fire and several other infractions that continue to plague the 100-year old house we bought this summer.
  • We took five kids for physicals and in between dealt with strep throat, ear infections, sinus infections and a nasty rash called Molluscum Contagiosum that I hope you never have to deal with.
  • We hosted 20 people on Christmas Eve and then flew to San Francisco to visit my sister and her family on Christmas Day. In between, Santa even made a visit. With gifts!
  • We showered.  Almost daily.
  • We ate. Daily.
  • We survived.  Five kids, two full time jobs and one big red dog who even got a trip to the vet.
  • We made resolutions — ’tis the season after all, right?

Resolution number one?  Rather than focus on what we haven’t achieved, focus on what we have (see above!).  The big (Birthdays! Report cards! Articles published!) and small (A shower! A roast chicken! An attempt to make chicken soup! Yay!).

I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep but, my good friend Britta must have sensed that I’m tempted by a good challenge so, for at least the month of January, I’m going to resolve to get back in the habit of a weekly post.  I hope you’ll check back in, share your thoughts and let me know what type of musings on motherhood & life in general you’d like to read about.  In the meantime, you should check out Britta’s blog too… as the mom of four under four, well, she’s a hero, and as real as it gets.

Happy New Year and whatever you resolve to do, good luck sticking with it.  And if you don’t, give yourself and break and remember to celebrate your successes, however small or short-lived they may be!

chicken soup with rice

There’s a whole series of books devoted to “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”  I’ve never read them but I buy into the hearty goodness of chicken soup.  My grandfather delivered a vat of it when our triplets were born, assuring me that it would not only “wet my whistle” but fill my tummy too.  My husband fetched it for me when I had strep last year and it was like the elixir of the Gods.  The warm steam from the broth alone seems to have healing powers, conjuring up feelings of comfort and joy.  These are the feelings I want to create for my family when I make chicken soup.  Comfort and joy.

We really need it.  It’s been a rough few weeks.  Our triplets just started kindergarten and have been separated for the first time.  Our daughter just started second grade and has been reduced to tears over her math homework.  Our oldest son, a fourth grader, started a new school and is feeling the pressure.  In the midst of it all, I’ve been traveling for work, working long hours when I’m home and struggling with the onslaught of folders and paperwork.  We need comfort and joy.  We need chicken soup.

And so it was that last Sunday, we decided to roast two chickens.  One for dinner, one for soup.  As my husband was prepping the birds, he asked if we should “toss in the giblets” for the broth.  We’ve made soup a dozen times but never with giblets.  I thought my grandfather used the giblets for his famously good soup so I responded “Sure, toss them in the pot!”  And he did.  As we cleaned up the dinner, I added the bones and other remains, filled that pot with water and put it on a slow simmer.  I turned it off before going to bed that night, deciding to finish up the soup on Monday.  Which turned to Tuesday, and then to Wednesday. (more…)

When you conjure up an image of a kindergarten classroom, what do you see?  In my mind, there are ABCs and 123s and primary colors everywhere you look – red apples, yellow buses, blue birds.  Colors are part of the kindergarten core curriculum as four and five year olds navigate their first official school experience, expressing themselves with brightly colored blocks, crayon and PlayDoh.

For our kindergartners, identical triplet boys who have just been separated for the very first time, colors take on a whole new meaning.  We’ve used red, blue and green to tell them apart since birth.  In the early days, we relied on nail polish on each of their big toes.  As they grew, they got sippy cups in their “signature” colors.  We dressed them primarily in their “primary” colors and even today the crocs they wear are red, blue and green.  It only seemed fitting then that as they marched off to kindergarten, their backpacks were, of course, red, blue and green.

We’ve had inklings in the past that perhaps color-coding our children would present some issues.  There was the time that when asked what his name was Declan responded, “I’m blue!”  And truly, of our three little fellas, he’s a bit more “blue”, a bit more melancholy than the rest.

Then there was the time that Kevin proclaimed he is a Red Sox fan – because his color is red.  This one really did a number on my husband, whose only mandates for our children is that they “grow up to be Catholics and Yankee fans.”  Crazy, I know, but still the Red Sox thing really hit him where it hurt.

The latest evidence of what seemed like a smart survival tactic gone awry happened during Cormac’s first week of kindergarten when he was asked to draw his self-portrait.  It was green. ALL green.  Good grief, what have we done?!   His teacher is now committed to ensuring he “likes all colors” before the school year is over.

As for the rest of the others, well, we hope they learn to like all colors too.  And, we’re thinking that maybe some new backpacks wouldn’t be such a bad idea either!

When I was growing up, we went to Cape Cod every summer.  As a grown up, I’ve continued to go to Cape Cod every summer.  College weekends. Girl’s weekends. Couples weekends.  The weekend I got engaged.

Cape Cod was the first place we took our firstborn.  And second. And our triplets, who came along next.  We’ve frequently made the trek to the Cape with a car loaded to the gills with strollers, pack & plays, high chairs and even the family dog.

Except for last year; last year, we didn’t go.  We were selling our house and our future was uncertain so we skipped our annual pilgrimage and visited friends and family in other places instead.  We had a super summer but it just wasn’t the same.

To get to the Cape, you have to cross a bridge.  I’ve always said that when I cross that bridge, I feel as though my troubles are left behind.  Blue skies and clear water lie ahead. Literally.  The stress and chaos of our hectic lives are replaced by days that flow freely from the beach to the ice cream parlor, from mini-golf to the candy store.  Worries fade as memories are made.  To do lists are simplified:  apply sunscreen, dry beach towels. Repeat.  That’s pretty much it.

The cottage we rented this year didn’t have wireless.  This, as it turns out, was a great gift.  Instead of catching up on work email or posting to my blog, I unplugged.  I had no choice.  I even left my Facebook friends behind for a week.  I read a book. I turned off the light at a decent hour and I slept.  A good, deep sleep.  The kind that comes after long, sun-drenched days on the beach, when your legs are tired from long walks collecting seashells and your skin still feels a little salty.

So, what did I learn on my summer vacation?  I learned that, as suspected, there is truly no place like Cape Cod.  I learned that I need more sleep.  I learned that I still need to wear sunblock on cloudy days.  And that beach towels don’t dry outside overnight as the cool Cape mist settles in.  Perhaps best of all, I learned that a vacation home without wireless is nothing to fret about; it is permission to unplug… and isn’t that what vacations are for?

NOTE: This post originally appeared on Moonfrye.

If you look and feel like this, you probably need a time out!

This is what it means to be a mom -- and why you may need a time out!

It’s no coincidence that this, my first Tuesday Tip in quite some time, is being written and posted on Wednesday — a day late and a dollar short, as my grandfather would say.  But actually, the day late is pretty much the point because as summer sadly starts to wind down, the best tip I have to offer is to take a time out.

This summer, as you may have noticed if you’re a frequent reader, I’ve given myself permission to take a time out. Time off.  Time away.  Why?  Well, if I didn’t, I might have lost my mind.  Completely.

Between a fast-paced, high-pressure job, five fast-paced kids, and moving (which is apparently one of life’s greatest stressors), something had to give.  For me, although I love it, the thing that had to give was writing.  The time I typically devote to typing and sharing was reallocated to packing and unpacking.  But that’s not all.  I realized this week, the first week of the summer that we haven’t been prepping for or recovering from our move and, the first week the kids aren’t racing out the door to camp, we all need a time out.

The past few mornings have been blissful.  As too have the evenings.  We all ate together in our new backyard; we let bedtimes slide so fireflies could be caught. I changed the alarm to wake me up at 6:27 instead of 5:42 (yes, I wake up at odd times!) because I finally admitted it: I am tired.

Tired of the rat race. Tired of packing and unpacking. Tired of saying  “ the new house is great!” even though there are cracks in the ceiling, leaks in the plumbing and boxes, boxes everywhere.  I’m tired of shuttling sick kids to the pediatrician; we’ve been making weekly visits for the past six weeks thanks to sinus infections, strep, ear infections, swimmers ear, an emergency root canal and several nasty cases of poison ivy – from head to toe and everywhere in between!  I’m also tired of making lunches, applying sunscreen, and hustling half-asleep kids out the door to camp.  As it turns out, they are tired too.  This lull between camp ending and school starting is just the antidote we all needed.  Because when I am tired, I’m not nice.  And neither are the kids.  Just in case you’re wondering, here are three signs you need a “time out.”  And, a “Tuesday tip” to encourage you to take it.  You’ll be glad you did.  And so will everyone around you.

If you look and feel like this, you probably need a time out!

Top 3 Signs Mom needs A Time Out

  1. You answer “no” routinely before the kids can even get the question out of their mouths.   This is a really bummer when the question, much to your surprise was “Can I help?”  To this you should always just say yes.  Even if it’s coming from a four-year old likely to make a bigger mess of things!
  2. You look in the mirror and are frightened by the crazy woman staring back at you. She has bags under her eyes, grays in her hair and a sallow skin tone.  Take that lady out for some fresh air, give her a good night’s sleep and before you know it, she just may be smiling at you in the mirror. Especially if as part of her time out you treat her to a long overdue mani-pedi.
  3. You ask your husband when your sweet charming children turned into “evil f*ckers.”   Enough said, right? It’s time for a time out!

 

 

Home-sweet-home


Where did the month of July go?  It marks the longest stretch I’ve gone without sharing our trials and triumphs here at the “Lyons Den” and here’s why — this month has been a hot, hard, horrid disaster!  As my friends and family know all too well, when the the going gets tough, well, I’m not that tough; I go radio silent.  And the past few weeks have been really tough. Why?  Because we moved.  And believe me, even though we are beyond thrilled to have found our “forever house”, it hasn’t been easy.

According to answers.com, moving is one of the “top five most stressful things in life;” the other four are debt, work, relationship troubles and loneliness.  Which is kind of ironic because, if you ask me, moving brings them all together.  The reality is that this move has put us in greater debt; we missed days of work to move and settle in; our relationship has been repeatedly tested as we bickered about what furniture goes where, which pictures should finally find their place on the curb and how much to spend to renovate the kitchen.  Thankfully, loneliness has not yet been an issue but if all of this keeps up, I can see how it could be.

According to the article I read on wiki answers, “the very thought of moving can fill people with dread – and experts say that as the most expensive and life-changing financial transaction most people ever undertake, it’s probably also one of the most stressful.”  I can attest this is true — and, if you add five kids, one “big red dog”, and an average temperatures of 95 degrees with 100% humidity to the mix, it’s all the more stressful.

But that’s not all.  Let me share a bit more about what’s been stressing me out over the past few weeks — with a warning:  you may not believe it’s true.  If I’ve seen or talked to you lately, I probably mentioned that “when I finally get the chance to write about this, I”m sure folks will think I’m making it up.”  Well, I’m not.  Here’s a rundown of life in the Lyons Den for the past few weeks…

  • July 2nd:  Triplet A discovered on living room rug in a pool of barf upon our arrival home from work. The summer stomach virus has arrived.
  • July 3rd:  Our oldest complains of a tooth-ache at dinner but, as Triplet B starts to burn with fever, he is ignored.
  • July 4th:  We pause on the packing to enjoy a great day with my sister and her family, my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  Triplets A&B are kept comfortable with Tylenol & Advil. Fevers run amok but vomiting has ceased.
  • July 5th:  Tooth ache complaints continue. We call the dentist. They are closed for the July 4th weekend; the message cites a number to call in case of emergency.  We decide it’s not an emergency and spend the day packing.
  • July 6th: 3AM:  We are awakened by our sobbing 8 year old moaning with pain.  Sh*t!! It turns out that tooth is an emergency!  9AM:  Movers arrive to take the outdoor furniture, contents of garage and all packed boxes. Mayhem ensues as we track down our dentist, find an endodontist who is working on the Saturday of July 4th weekend and try to keep the kids from being trampled by the movers. 1 PM:  Poor kid has an emergency root canal.  Ugh.
  • July 7th:  It’s 100 degrees and we spend the day cleaning the new house (which does NOT have air conditioning) and packing up the old one. I want, I NEED to have our new kitchen in working order before we make the final move.  I scrub the counters, line the shelves, stock the pantry.  I have convinced myself that if only I have the means and space to feed our family, it will all be fine. Of note, Triplet C spends the day intermittently sweating, drooling and napping on a hardwood floor as his fever spikes.  He (and three other kids) have also picked up a nasty case of poison ivy.  Things are not looking good. Literally.
  • July 8th: It’s Monday. I go to work and try to act like everything is under control. It’s not. At 10:00PM we make a run to the new house to stock the fridge. We notice a drip over the stove. It’s coming from the ceiling. Run for cover! The ceiling collapses. And so too does my morale, my sense of control, my ability to feed our family!
  • July 9th: Moving Day.  It’s 94 degrees.  We still have four kids with poison ivy, one recovering from a root canal and one complaining of a sore throat.  We shuttle between the new and old house answering questions of movers and plumbers alike.  “Put that there. No, there!”  “What? Did I turn off the water on the third floor?  No. But I’m flattered you think I’d know how to!”  8PM that night: “Emergency!!! Mom, MOM!!!!! Come quick! There’s water everywhere!!!”

And then, I think I kind of blacked out for a few weeks.  There were more plumbers and an electrician.  There were numerous trips to the pediatrician.  Sinus infections. Strep throat. Poison ivy. There were numerous trips to the dentist.  There were busy days at work and long nights unpacking.  There were (and are) boxes, boxes everywhere.  There is a gaping hole in the kitchen ceiling and just today, it “rained” inside — to be exact, the bathtub water from upstairs rained into the spaghetti pot on the stove.  Bon appetit?!

It seems we are now the proud, tired, broke owners of the “money pit.”  But you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Because in the blur of the past few weeks, between the endless sweat, exhausted tears and consistent sense of being completely overwhelmed, there have been neighbors on the porch, friends in the kitchen, family checking in and more friends hanging out.  Despite leaky plumbing, sick kids and horrid heat, we’ve managed to make this place our home.  And while it’s far from perfect, it’s still very sweet.  And with that spirit rediscovered, I look forward to sharing more tales, tips and quips in the weeks and months ahead… and maybe, just maybe, we will finally get these boxes unpacked.  But if not, well, c’mon by anyway… turns out a box is a mighty fine place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine!

Moving Up

June 21st, 2013 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in MaMa Moments | parenting | Tips and Quips - (0 Comments)
It was this realization that brought tears to my eyes.

It was this realization that brought tears to my eyes.

Tuesday was our oldest son Liam’s “Moving Up” ceremony.  He moved up from 3rd grade to 4th and will be entering a new school in the fall.  Like many parents sitting in the hot, crowded auditorium (vying for a seat with a view!), I wondered how this day came so quickly. It seems like yesterday that I put my wide-eyed, innocent not-yet five-year old on a bus for the first time.  I didn’t cry then.  Perhaps because I had other things on my mind — like his little sister who was two and his triplet brothers who were 11 months.  Or perhaps because I knew it would be easier to have four kids under four at home than five under five!  Or perhaps because I knew he was ready. Ready to ride that bus and join the ranks of kindergarteners.

This week, as I sat in that sweaty gym, looking up at the beaming faces onstage, I wondered, is he ready?  For  4th grade? For a new school?  For all the life lessons that lie ahead?  My mind immediately jumped to life lessons vs. school lessons the moment his class marched dutifully onto the stage and I saw their shirts emblazoned with “Class of 2022.”  That’s when I cried.  That’s when it really hit me.  Today, 3rd grade graduation; tomorrow, high school graduation!  I don’t know if it was the notion of my firstborn graduating and leaving home (I know, I know, I am getting WAY ahead of myself here!) or the realization that many of the life lessons he will encounter between now and then will be hard ones.

By the time 2022 rolls around, he will have likely had — and lost — his first love; he will be on a losing and learn that it’s only in Little League that everyone gets a trophy; he may be bullied — or worse yet, be a bully; he will experiment with many things and he may be left out, left behind or left for lost.  Lost in text books that are complicated and relationships that are even more so.  He will grow up.  And that’s what makes me cry.

These lessons, like many good ones and all the ones that can’t be taught from a book lie before this little boy who is my first… and who is not so little anymore.  He is too “cool” to wave to me from the stage; he only barely makes eye contact a I weep in that overheated, overcrowded gym.

I pulled myself together to pay attention as his classmates shared their memories — memories of the nervousness in kindergarten, the smiling faces and warm welcome in first grade, the trip to the zoo in second grade and their combined efforts to make a new third grader from Japan feel at home. This show of 3rd grade compassion and empathy yielded even more tears.  Then, they recited a touching poem in unison that concluded with these words:

“When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked at you and wanted to say, thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.”

More tears.  And a reminder that they, our children, are always looking. He will look to me to help him navigate those tough life lessons that inevitably lie ahead.  And I will be there.  I will be looking.  Just like I was when the bus pulled away that first day of kindergarten… and every day since.