The thing about milestones is that we work so hard to get from one to the next that sometimes that means it is only when we reach the one we’ve been keeping our sights on that we realise just how far we’ve left that previous one behind.
And like it or not, we can’t make a U-turn.
With kids, reaching milestone after milestone isn’t even a matter of ambition but necessity. The choice lies not in whether we want to move forward, but how we want to make that move. Sometimes, the kids lead us; other times, we have to work harder at encouraging, coaxing, cajoling, even manipulating them, to get them on the way to take-off.
There are also times that creep up on us, rush at us and really just impose their presence into our comfortably wonderful pace of life: Like when the kids moved out to their own bedroom and the silence in our own bedroom broke our hearts. The distance of being one wall apart was too much that came in between. Or when Matthew had his first overnight camp in school and I knew in my heart of hearts, that the displacement I felt and sense of having lost my bearings would be one I will come to know increasingly in the years to come.
We work so hard to help our kids reach each milestone with proper perspective, good cheer and the thrill of anticipation (for they must learn the joy of adventures enough that they must one day fly away from us), but it is much harder to rewire the workings of our own interiors to suitably match each occasion and to actually be aware that we as parents, must also learn to arrive at and embrace every milestone with courage, resolution and surrender.
Ready or not, a lot must be packed away: Personal desires to remain right where we were, the happiness of dwelling in a current state of life, the longing to let things be just for a little bit longer… all that must be packed away, sealed, and go.
Right now, I’m staring at the milestone coming right up and I spy an accompanying gantry that quite resolutely prevents me from entering it hand-in-hand with my firstborn. Rightfully so. And so we will learn together to let go and move on, and I will leave you with my love and prayers.
Dear Matthew, you are steps away from crossing that first real crucial milestone. This will be that very first milestone which will effectively insert you into a world where I will increasingly be unable to follow.
Today is the last day of school at Kindergarten for you. You will begin to head off to classrooms where I cannot visit, learn about “much more than I’ll ever know”, be acquainted with new influences, temptations, life lessons both bitter and sweet, and you will grow, adapt, evolve, change and become, in ways that I may not instinctively grasp and know so well anymore.
I hear you talk about missing your friends and I see you cry when you tell me you won’t see them anymore. I hug you and reassure you it will be okay even though I’m choking up (and Daddy too when I tell him about it!).
But I promise you: For as long as you will miss them (which is likely not very long at all), know that I will be right there with you. I’ve watched your friends grow from tots to little children and yes, I’ve come to dote on many of them. So you won’t be missing them alone and I will do my best to share in your heartfelt longing and to embrace you in your anxieties.
At the same time, just as you will likely forget them all too soon, I know it is true too, that you will likely not remember the years that we’ve shared together up till now. Your brain is rewiring everyday and childhood delights no longer fascinate you as much, as Daddy and I have been ruefully observing… and that’s okay. I will have the memories and will keep them for you as you prepare to make new ones that will increasingly not include us.
My dear little man, how I’ve loved to watch you at school day-in and day-out. You will never know the amount of pride and joy I feel watching you grow through these years. I love your mischief with friends and how you keep an eye out on the girls around you all the time. (One of your girlfriend’s mother had asked, “Matthew has a lot of girlfriends?” to which I answered, “No no, just one every year!”) I have enjoyed going on field trips with you and getting to know your friends. I’ve loved listening to your stories of what go on at school. Please don’t stop telling me. Not yet, anyway.
But here we are and off we go. At the end of this post, I will walk across to your school and join the other mummies in taking many, many photos of you children. And we will hug as many teachers and friends as we can. We will make sure you’ve given out all your thank you cards to all the teachers who have taught you and then we will thank them again for providing this loving, nurturing and wonderful environment for you all to grow so well. And you may cry. I know I will, whether you see it or not. And then we will say our goodbye and we will leave.
For a while, we may feel sad as we miss one another. But then, we will get through it, and before long, we will be well on our way on our next adventure.
And until that significant milestone where you can care for your own little broken heart, let me be the one to hold the pieces together for you. I am here for you.