On the day our daughter, Liv, first started preschool, my husband, Jeff, and I dropped her off together. We helped her off with her coat. We put her shoes on the mat. Then, we stared expectantly at her wondering (possibly hoping) if she would start to cry and demand that we stay. She didn't. In fact, Liv told us with thirteen year old form, "You can go NOW." Jeff and I left feeling excited, rather sad and comforted with the camaraderie of parenthood. Both our cellphones sat on the table anticipating an urgent call to come retrieve our distraught daughter while we sat in a coffee shop waiting for her two hours of separation from us to be over.
Our son, Briar, started preschool a few weeks ago. So much has changed in the four years since Liv embarked upon her preschool journey. Jeff is gone. Instead of him, I sat with Liv in a coffee shop while we waited for the two hours to pass. No phone on the table. No nervousness. No dramatic sighs of "He's getting so BIG!" We just enjoyed having a cup of tea and talking.
We had arrived at his 'school' with his snack in his hand, introduced him to the teacher, snapped a picture or two, exchanged hugs and kisses and left. I was gone before the majority of other mothers had finished applying lipstick marks and other ministrations upon their budding schoolers. I didn't join the little group outside daubing their own tears and remarking that they can't believe this day had arrived.
I know that my lack of drama and tears could be misunderstood as 'second child syndrome'. That nothing is so vivid or surprising after the first child has done it. But that was not the reason for my possibly seeming apathetic attitude.
Firstly, for now, I have come to a place where those types of emotions are a frivolous luxury that I am unable to afford anymore. If I start thinking of how Briar has grown, what Jeff and I would do to celebrate this milestone or how life 'could' or 'may' have been, I eventually wind up at a place where I realize that his father will never witness this day and end up rocking and moaning in the parking lot.
Secondly, I have larger fish to fry. I know Briar is safe and will spend my time worrying about how to afford the skating lessons he wants or the dance shoes his sister desires. And I can't and won't allow myself the painful thoughts that we seem to love to taunt ourselves with before a true tragedy has occurred.
I wonder if my little ones are missing out. If they will ever wonder if I care as much as the other mommies. I so do. I love them so intensely. I just don't have as much silly, frothy emotion to spill up anymore. Now when I cry, it is huge sobbing painful jolts. Tangible pain and sorrow.
But my children have also gained a parent who tries to waste as little time possible bemoaning what that we've lost. Instead, she'd prefer to open her eyes to what remains around us and the bit of wonder that is left. Otherwise, there isn't a point to carry out these small yet pivotal moments.
Maybe that's hiding or suppressing. Maybe it's coping. Who knows? I am just doing what seems to fit at this moment.