Yesterday, I took my middle child to his first kindergarten orientation day. Surrounded by crying and unsure kids, my newly minted five year old walked proudly into the class, fearless and unphased, with barely a look in my direction as farewell. I realised in that moment, that my little boy was gone. Dan the Man is a big kid now.
I had a similar moment with my youngest, the day before. After sharing a hilarious anecdote about JJ on Facey (they’re always hilarious when you are the parent), I posted a photo of him that related to the anecdote. Suddenly, when I looked at his shaggy hair, his little face, and his long legs that hint of lankiness to come, I realised that I was no longer looking at a baby. My littlest baby is my littlest boy.
I don’t have a baby anymore. Not one.
My seven year old daughter is “like, totally over Frozen”, my five year can count to 100, my two year old is speaking in ‘understandable’ sentences. Not a single baby between them. My days of bottles, high chairs, change tables, and teething toys are over.
It’s fucking fantastic.
I hear so many mothers lament their baby raising days. I know women who hold the babies of others, and tear up with the realisation that their time with tiny scrunched up faces, and yellow, curdy milk poo are over. I am not these women. When I am handed the teeny, wiggly bundles that friends have birthed, I am overcome with relief that I get to hand them back and sleep through the night. As cute as they are, little babies are not my thang these days.
I was at a birthday party recently, with the parents of a bunch of kids that Dan is going to school with. We were discussing the approaching orientation day, and it was generally agreed upon that the appropriate reaction to such an event was sadness, wistfulness, and possibly, tears. I couldn’t help but chime in.
“I’ll be so excited that Dan is going to school, I’ll probably stand at the gates and high five the parents.”
Everyone laughed, ha ha, that Rissa, she’s such a card. And I guess I am, but the thing is, it was true. I am not sad in the slightest to watch my middle child growing up. This orientation thing, this kindergarten student 2017 thing, is something I plan to celebrate.
I love watching them grow. Sometimes, I feel like I am watching a movie, at the edge of my seat: what will happen next? Where will they go? Who are they going to become? I love hearing my daughter’s almost-tween conversations with her friends. I adore listening to Dan practicing counting to 100, just because his friend knows how to. I delight in seeing JJ walk up to a group of little kids, “I play game too?”
They are growing up, and it means so many things. It means that they will get to try so many new things. It means that they will learn that they are not so good at touch football, however they are fantastic at turning cartwheels and navigating monkey bars. They will learn to win games, and races, and competitions, and they will learn to lose a few along the way, too. They will learn how to navigate conflict, the value of a true friend, the value of being a true friend. They will break rules, bend rules, and new rules will be created just for them.
It means some pretty awesome things for me, too. Perhaps many will find it selfish, but it means freedom. Freedom from being a little person’s slave. After three kids in five years, they are growing up, and it means I get to remember who I am. Not Rissa-Phoebe’s-mum. Nor Rissa-Dan’s-mum. Just Rissa.
One day in the near future, I might be able to get an eyebrow wax without a captive audience. I may even manage to find the time to get a pap smear, without it requiring far too much coordination, and far too many babysitting favours used, for me to bother. I might apply for jobs that I have put off looking at. I might have time to turn some of my ambitious dreams into actual realities. I might get to actually read a book that doesn’t have pictures or large print.
Lately, the husband and I have been talking about flying to an exotic location for our 10th wedding anniversary. It’s 18 months off, and it’s starting to feel like it might just be achievable. A week, just him and I. A whole week of grown up activities with grown up people. It sounds so amazing, I can barely even bring myself to dream about it.
It seems unpopular, my excitement. It feels like people expect me to be sad that my babies are no longer little bundles of joy. But dammit, I just can’t pretend that I am. Maybe it’s just my weirds hanging out again, as they have a habit of doing so frequently. I think that maybe more people feel this way than I think, it just happens that I feel it louder.
Life is for living. I don’t want to yearn for the past, not just yet. And I don’t want to wish my children were something they no longer are, either. Excitement is infectious, and I want my children to feel it for their own futures. This wild life ride would be boring without it.