Last Wednesday, I was sitting on the bed at 7:45 in the morning, writing and playing with my baby, when I looked out the window and saw the boys next door riding down the street on their skateboards. A few moments later I saw Jared, the dad across the street, walking a few steps in front of his young son, Peter, who had a huge backpack on. It hit me that they were all on their way to the bus stop for their first day of school.
A bubble of grief welled up inside me and my eyes filled with tears. I could see the excitement on Peter’s face and I knew he had been happily anticipating this day all summer: his first day of kindergarten. The grief was clearly mine, not his! I took a minute to ponder this instantaneous reaction of sadness and knew that I was remembering my own traumatic first day of kindergarten as well as sensing into the separation that all parents must be feeling this time of year as their kids go back to school.
As we’re homeschooling for now, we’re exempt from this particular transition, but we’re not exempt from the collective experience of kids beginning school again; we’re surrounded by it, and just as the first hints of fall are making their appearance at the bookend hours of the day, so we’re watching as kids leave for and return from school and their parents see them off.
A few days after watching Peter walk to the bus stop for his first day, I ran into Caryn, Peter’s mom, at the annual end-of-summer pool party that one of our neighbors hosts and I asked how this transition as been for them. She said that Peter is doing great but that she’s had her teary moments. She said her grief isn’t so much about this particular transition as it is about realizing how quickly it’s all passing: she can suddenly see her little guy at twelve and sixteen, interested in girls, driving a car, incrementally establishing and increasing his independence, separating from his family. Just as she cried when she put away his baby clothes, so she shed a few tears as he left for his first day of kindergarten.
I’ve said it before on this blog, but there’s nothing like having kids to put you directly in touch with the fleeting nature of life. Time just keeps on moving forward, and it seems to move more quickly with kids around. Could my little Everest really be six years old? And wasn’t it just a few months ago that I pushed Asher out of my body; how can he be running, dancing, talking, and cracking jokes already? They’re still so little, but they’re so much bigger than they were last year.
Time passes, our kids grow up, we grow older, I notice a few more gray hairs and a few more wrinkles. I breathe into it with a deep inhale of acceptance, a wave of grief, because there’s really nothing else to do. Breathe in the grief. Accept the ephemeral nature of life. Exalt in the gratitude that I’m here, that my kids are here, that we’re all together on this great journey of endings and beginnings, watching life unfold as we circle around the sun from the cockpit of this spaceship called Earth.