For the last 9 ½ years I’ve had at least one little person at home with me. Today marks the end of that era. Truthfully, I’ve put off thinking about how I feel about this change which today seems so suddenly thrust upon me. My head has filled up with all kind of ideas–house projects to accomplish, books to read, blogs to write, book clubs to conduct at Asher and Haven’s school, volunteer hours at Jude’s school, teaching opportunities at church and in the area, Monday dates with Jared, coffees and lunches out with friends. Even as I list these things, the realist inside tells me less than half of these things will get done, but it feels good to dream them for now. And the dreaming keeps me from lingering too long over the sadness I feel with the passing of these little years.
We had a great summer. We traveled to Seattle for a family reunion, to Detroit to visit friends and family, to the Jersey shore with the Marines and finally to Florida for our fourth annual summer visit. The boys did baseball and basketball clinics and took swim lessons. Asher played in a sand soccer tourney. We stayed up late, ate like kings, logged many hours at beaches and pools, enjoyed the boardwalk at Wildwood Crest (Asher even rode his first roller coaster). We binged on the Olympics, play dated, and slept in every morning.
I’m so thankful for these family bonding moments. We’re measuring out our lives in beach vacations, ensuring that our family unit–the memories we share, the love bank we’ve filled, and the truths we’ve passed on–become guiding stars that light up the paths of their adult lives. Every year my pictures from our vacations feature slightly older, taller and braver kids. When I flip through vacation pictures from earlier years I think I can hardly remember Haven looking that way. I can’t recall Jude with chubby cheeks, but there are the pics to prove me wrong. Was there really a time when Asher couldn’t swim? Oh yes, there’s a picture of him clinging to the side of the pool. And I’d forgotten just how curly Haven’s hair was a baby. What a doll she was in her purple suit and floaties.
Today though, I send my sun-kissed kids off to school once again where they’ll spend most of their waking hours with people who are strangers to me. Jude starts a new school today. I had a suspicion when he intuitively knew how to divide and multiply at age 5 that his little mathematical mind would need to be challenged in school or else he’d grow bored. This year he was offered a position in an enrichment program through the district so we’re going to try it. It pains me to drop him off alone at a large school 20 minutes away where he might recognize his teacher by sight, having only met her once–and briefly–last night. Though he’s a math brain, he inherited my internal compass (which according to Jared spins in circles!) I have no doubt he’ll get lost in that maze of a school.
Asher begins 4th grade this year. I’ve been told that this is the last “little” year. Already he’s asking for Nike brand clothing, but he does still let me hug him publicly =) And when I took him out for dinner at a restaurant of his choice he wanted to take a picture by the Mars Cheese Castle mouse–another good indicator that we’ll enjoy his “littleness” for a while longer!
My “little baby not sure” will step into the classroom for the first time tomorrow. She has cried real tears of compassion for me. I told her more than once this last year how much I’m going to miss my baking buddy, shopping partner, and helper during the days. Truly, I think I’ll hear faint echoes of her voice asking if she can help, if I can read to her, if I’ll play a game with her throughout my days at home alone.
I know she’s sad that the preschool years of life have slipped out of her grasp like water. And she’s fearful she’ll not be good at school or that she won’t like it or that she won’t have any friends. She’s very different from the boys in some ways. They fit nicely into the school mold, operating well in the classroom setting. I wonder how Haven’s creative, left-handed, fearful, thoughtful self will fare in the school environment. Just today as she was loading up for school she expressed her feelings in typical Haven fashion: “I’m nervous and I’m excited. I just don’t know which.” Precisely, darling.
So, as I send them off again this year, this familiar prayer springs unbidden from my heart and lips. They are yours, dear Father. “Surround them with favor as with a shield.”