Thursday, September 11, 2014

Long time, no write.
I've got lots of ideas, and have all intentions of getting them down on the page. For now, though, I'll reach into my "archives" and share a piece published years ago. This was in the pre-blog era, when words appeared on actual paper. (What a concept.) 
I was talking today with a mom whose youngest child has just started preschool. Our conversation took me (way) back to my days as a young mother, and the wistfulness that September can bring.
I remembered this essay, and wanted to share it again. I've tweaked it a bit from the original version (editing never ends). I hope you enjoy it.


The toddler squatted by the fountain, delighting each time his hand splashed against the water’s surface.
  The water fascinated him until a new curiosity arrived: our children, a boy 8, and a girl, 5, who tossed in a few coins to make wishes. The toddler smiled, watching the coins flip through the air and sink through the water.
He wasn’t talking yet  — at least not with words — but he made it clear that he wanted to try it, too. Clamping his hand on the coin his dad offered, the little boy tried to toss the coin into the water. His arm stretched back, then forward — but he would not let go. The coin stayed in his strong, pudgy grip, a treasure not to be relinquished. 
His parents and grandparents offered encouragement:
“Throw it, throw it.”
Still he gripped the coin.
Eventually his grownups tired of the game and decided it was time to go. The father proceeded to help his son drop the coin into the water. The boy yowled in protest, reaching for his lost treasure. The family moved on; the coin stayed in the fountain. The toddler looked back, bereft.
Letting go is not easy.
Kid, I know just how you feel.
Watching the toddler’s struggle reminded me of our daughter’s first attempts at throwing dice.
  The game was Cootie, and to her, the dice were just as fascinating as those little bug body parts that come with the game. She, too, did the stiff-armed swing back and forth. And the dice stayed put, glued to her palm.
Our daughter is older now, a pro at throwing dice — and tossing coins. She’s learned how to let go. 
I’m the one having trouble.
She is my youngest, newly 6 and about to enter first grade. When her brother took that giant step into all-day school, the ache in my heart was eased by the little girl at my side. This September, I’ll be on my own.
On my own — at least from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Believe me, in the trenches of motherhood, amid dirty diapers, endless laundry, or escalating sibling warfare, I had looked to such a day (through sleep-deprived eyes) as a beacon of hope. Yet in my heart I’ve known that any wishes for them to “grow up already” would be a double-edged mantra.
      Last spring, as her days of afternoon kindergarten neared an end, I made a conscious effort to savor our mornings together. To help me remember, I jotted down what we did together that last week of school. Here’s my list: played Candy Land, went food shopping, read stories, stopped for a soft pretzel, played on the swings, played hopscotch. 
      Pretty ordinary stuff. But I realized then — and now — in that very ordinariness lies an extraordinary treasure.
Parenthood is a continual weaning process. It will take time for me to adjust to this next phase of childhood, and motherhood. New challenges, new routines, new freedoms await both of us. She’s excited, and a little bit nervous about it all.
Kid, I know just how you feel.