So, I sent my baby to full-time big school this week for the first time. For the first time in thirteen years, I am home without a little person. For the first time in thirteen years, I do not have to be at home during nap time. It is weird.
I tried to spend some time in stillness this week. I tried to “do the stuff you can’t do with kids around.” I might have had a three-hour lunch one day with a fellow mom who sent her baby to kindergarten, too.
And here’s what I’ve learned so far. I’m not an expert yet, I’ll admit. But I do have some (surely profound) insights.
- You can cure meltdowns with protein. I might have already known this, but I put it into practice multiple times this week. We’ve had cheese sticks in the fridge for almost three weeks. They are all gone now. Because I said many times to a crying, fussing, potentially yelling, overdone child, “Okay. Go eat a cheese stick and we’ll talk.” I also said, “Look at the fun new yogurt pouches I bought. I never buy these but they are for fun snacks the first week of school! You have to eat one before you leave the kitchen.” “Who wants turkey?!” Protein is like magic. It makes crying, out-of-control children turn into snuggling darlings who want to cuddle in your lap and read books. The only challenge is getting them to eat said protein if the breakdown happens before they ingest said magical nutrients.
- It’s okay to be sad. A fellow mom who I look up to as a mentor once told me, when I felt like I should give away some baby clothes but just couldn’t, that I should keep them a bit longer. Stick them in the attic. Wait. Then give them away when I felt better about it and could do it with more joy. She reminded me there’s no rush, that it’s okay to be sad when seasons change, and that I don’t have to force myself to feel or be a certain way in a certain time frame. I remembered her grace in that moment, and while I was happy sending everyone off that first morning of school, by day three, I let myself cry. I know I will adjust and they will adjust and it will all be a happy routine in time. I don’t have to force it. I can be real and be sad and have hope and be happy all at the same time. If I’m made for anything, it’s feeling multiple emotions at once. My kids are feeling all the emotions, too, and I give them grace. So I also gave myself some grace this week. And also, God bless my sweet husband.
- Being still is hard. The first morning, I heard a dying toy in the toy chest whimper off and on every five minutes or so. I wondered how long that toy had been dying, and if we just never heard it because the noise of four children in the house drowns out such things. Being still meant I had to deal with my new reality of a really oddly clean and quiet house. So I’m learning how to meet God in the gifted moments of stillness and trying to relish it as a gift and not a punishment. And I’m also figuring out which toys I can toss.
- TV Land is awesome. I watched it while sorting Legos for three hours one day. Don’t judge. Andy Griffith, Gunsmoke…good lessons in those shows, people. Good lessons. I am contemplating taking up soap operas also. I enjoy good drama. The world is my oyster, y’all.
- I can do lunch now. And I did. I met a fellow friend (who also sent her baby to kinder this week) for lunch, and we were proud of ourselves. And I also learned that when you go to lunch without a squirrely little person who gets antsy and needs a nap, you might stay in the restaurant for three hours. Just saying it’s possible.
- I will see my kids growing up and amazing me. My kindergartner is the best at putting away his lunchbox and backpack every day. He is so ready to be growing into a new role. My fifth-grader came home and asked me to put more money in his lunch account. He only had a little left in his account as the year began, and today he used the last of it to buy one cookie. Which he gave to a little boy whose account ran out. The boy could only get a peanut butter sandwich and milk for lunch. So my son bought him a cookie and didn’t eat one himself. And another friend gave the little boy the chips from his lunch. I am probably being braggy now, but when you pray for your kids to be lights in the world as you take them to school, it is incredible when you hear a story about how they were very tangibly a light to someone. And even though they are asking you to give them more money to buy junk food at school, their kindheartedness makes you want to do a happy dance.
- Before you know it, your days start filling up with new things. It’s been four days for me, and today, I didn’t make it through my to-do list before it was time to pick up the kids. (And I am not counting TV Land or three-hour lunches here.) I actually have legitimate things that need to be done, and that’s not to say I’m overfilling my plate, but at the end of the week, I had to prioritize my daily task list. I could put off folding laundry until the kids were home and do that in their presence. But I sent emails while they were at school. I had lunch with my husband. I talked to my sister who just had a baby. I did lawn work. And then I did work I needed to do in my office and at home. It turns out, even when my kids were home, I had a lot to do every day and now I can do those tasks quickly and efficiently, or really thoroughly, without feeling pulled in too many different directions. I have to admit it’s kind of nice.
- I’m so thankful. All week, in every concern, in every worry, in every joy, in every meltdown, in every smile, I’ve seen God’s grace. I’ve seen people He’s put in place to care for my kids while they are at school. Four kids on three campuses, and I can see God moving and working in each child’s circumstance. I’m thankful how God has allowed me to see these bits of grace and love. He continues to show me how He is a step ahead in all things, preparing me and my kids for our daily adventures. He’s faithful. He’s good. And I’m so so so thankful.
So those are a few of my lessons so far. And next week, I plan to visit my new nephew and spend some time (while my kids are in school) holding a newborn baby. I will still miss my little kindergarten buddy, and I’ll wonder how middle school is treating my daughter, and I’ll think about my other two in all their new classes, but that sweet baby smell has a magical way of melting stress. So I think I have to go hold that new baby. Because it’s important for my actual real health. God’s timing is the best.
And right now, I’m off to cuddle my very own little people because I simply have not seen their sweet faces enough this week. Happy Friday.