One by one, the alarms went off, and one by one the door opened and closed. With each creak of the front door, the hustle and bustle in the house settled and there it was – the start of another school year – the start of a more structured schedule. Those first few moments, of back to school, are always a bit awkward for me; bittersweet, I guess. Knowing the structure will allow me the time to get some much-needed work done, but wrestling with the emotions that these precious lazy days of summer with the kids are dwindling with each passing year. There were no college send offs this year – my older three have all graduated, began their careers, and for some, moved out. Only my youngest, now a junior in high school, had the bus send off this morning. Yes, they’re all grown up.
The past few weeks have allowed me time that I’ve been yearning for, for many years; moments spent catching up with cousins and girlfriends. The laughter, and a few tears, was a refreshing and welcome change to the hustle and bustle of family life. The same hustle and bustle that I know will all too soon be gone. I try to embrace that change and welcome the new life that awaits me – one filled with adult children, new careers, and quiet moments spent with my husband, and friends.
But if the truth be told, and I allow myself to sink into the moments of days gone by, I can’t help but wish a part of me was out buying crayons and construction paper and watching little hands navigate their way around scissors.
As I sit with my second cup of coffee, my mind thinks back to a moment last week when I ran out to get a few school supplies for my son. As I slowly steered my cart through the crowded aisles, I can’t help but notice one particular family – a mom and her two daughters.
As mom plugged away at her to-do list, these two sisters, around 8 and 10, had just about had enough of each other. The 8 year old was fast on her sisters heals, despite the 10 year old’s efforts to dodge her little sister every chance she could. This, of course, was followed by the typical banter:
“Mooooooom, she’s bothering me”
“Just walk away”
“Well, apparently, not hard enough”
Poor mom was just about ready to lose it. She simply wanted to grab the supplies and get the heck out of that store. I couldn’t tell if she was embarrassed or annoyed as our eyes met but I just said “I remember those days…I have four children….three of them girls”. She said – “Oh then you know!!” We exchanged a few words and went our separate ways.
As I walked away, I suddenly felt that mid-life moment – the one that says – this too HAS passed. I looked down in my cart at the few boring school supplies I had and realized that these days will be gone all too soon. I wanted to go back and pick up sparkly folders and magic markers and the big box of crayons – the same supplies I complained about years before. I wanted to go find that mom and say “hey lady – stop and just “be” in this moment. Watch their silly expressions and see how amusing their nudging each other really is.
As I completed my purchase and walked out to my car I was surprised to see mom and daughters parked right next to me. Mom laughed and so did I. I saw the girls giggling with each other in the car and remarked how happy they are now that the shopping in finally done. Mom seemed almost apologetic as she said how close they really are most of the time. I acknowledged that they looked like sweet little girls and how they brought back wonderful memories of my girls at that age. Then I told the girls how lucky they were to be sisters – it was a gift they would really appreciate some day.
As I say goodbye to summer, I’m reminded that although the hustle and bustle of family life can consume every waking hour (and even some sleepless nights), I make that choice with a grateful heart and thank God for that abundant blessing. He gave me those moments to watch my children’s hands skillfully master the art of using scissors and create masterpieces with their crayons. It allowed me to cherish their laughter, comfort their pain, and moderate their disputes. In other words, prepare them for life.
Tomorrow, the alarms will go off, the door will close, and I’ll thank God for another precious moment of the hustle and bustle of my family life.