It's my tenth summer as a mom. We have one week left. One more week of rowing this boat and trying not to let it tump over. We've made it this far.
The oldest is going into fourth grade. The youngest has one more year of preschool. I feel like time has sped by at a rate that I was neither prepared nor hanging on for. I asked the hubs the other day if he missed those two little babies we had, those precious cherub faced toddlers with personalities that wowed us every day. "Nope," was his firm answer. "These two are potty-trained." Well, he has a point.
Honestly, I'd love to be one of those moms who can't wait for school to be out. Who plans activities at home and peruses Pinterest all night trying to find more fun things to do. One who mourns the start of school as the end of an era. One whose summers are spent in quiet observation of her children at play, noticing every changing nuance as time goes by. (Seriously, who has time for that?)
Who am I kidding? That's not me. Me? I'm skipping down the aisles of the mall shopping for school clothes and shoes with glee. I'm marking off the days to the calendar like the first day of school is a vacation to Cabo. You know why? Because school is good for them, and it's good for me. They get to let their creativity flow, they get to be social, they are exposed to experiences and learning they don't get at home. I get to go to the grocery store in peace. hit the gym without a time limit, meet a friend for lunch every so often, finish projects on the house, volunteer for the school and the community, and run errands without chasing down the youngest every five minutes.
So yes, I look forward to school starting. I look forward to having some time to get things done in relative peace and quiet. Am I going to apologize for that? Am I going to let anyone make me feel badly about it? Absolutely not. We all have different parenting styles. As long as you're not abusing your children, as long as they're happy and well-fed, you're fine. You don't have to be a perfect mom to be a good one.
So yes, I will send my children off to school with a sigh of relief. Yet before they go, I will tell them this:
1. You are incredibly special. Some people may not see it, and that's ok. The people who do see it are the only ones that matter. Don't ever be afraid to be yourselves and don't ever think you have to change to make anyone happy. It doesn't work that way. True friends don't ask you to be anyone but yourself.
2. Love is all around you. Mommy and Daddy love you more than you will ever know. And you know what? So many other people do, too. Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. People who have never even met you. Your teachers will come to love you, too. If you get sad or worried, just think of that.
3. Mommy and Daddy will always be there. I might be a few minutes late at times, and sometimes it might be daddy when you didn't expect him, but we will always be there. Even later in life, whenever you need us, we'll be there.
4. You are smart enough and capable enough to do what is asked of you. So many times I hear from you, "I can't." And what do I say? I say, "Oh yes, you can!" There isn't anything you'll be asked to do that you can't do. There isn't anything you can't do if you put your mind to it (well, except fly, although that would be cool). I want you to walk into every assignment, every project, every challenge and say, "I CAN do this!"
5. Raise your hand. Accept new challenges. Don't be afraid to speak up, don't be afraid to answer questions. Sometimes you might be wrong, and that's ok. Most times you might be right, and that's great! But unless you raise your hand, you'll never know, will you?
6. Be accepting of others. Just as I said you were incredibly special, so is every other person at your school and in your life in some way. Get to know new people. Foster friendships you have. And never, ever judge anyone based on their appearance. Remember what you've been taught: people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. If they're nice to you, be nice to them. And beyond that......if you see someone who's quiet, go try and talk to them. If you see someone who's upset, go try to help. Above all, if you see someone being bullied, stand up for them.
7. Do what's right. Don't do what everyone else is doing simply because they're doing it. You know right from wrong. I trust you.
8. You have the brightest future. 4th grade, preschool. Such a tiny start to a huge journey. But it doesn't matter what direction you choose to go, we will be right behind you, cheering you on, knowing you can do it. Anything you want. My 4th grader, you've told me you want to be a horse rider and a wedding dress designer. If that's still what you want when you reach high school, then that's what you'll work towards. Because you're going to be and do what makes you happy.
9. School is important. It's important for you to learn. It's important for you to listen. It's important for you to understand and follow the rules. It's ok to question them sometimes, but you must follow them. School is an important part of your growing up. At times it's going to be fun, at times it will be hard work, but you'll feel so proud when you know you've done your best.
10. Do your best. That's all we ask. We have never expected either of you to be perfect, we will never expect perfection. All we want is for you to do your best. Always. Whether it's a simple homework paper, a lengthy project, or even making your bed. Just do your best.
I don't expect them to listen. I don't expect any of this to sink in. Over the years it will, hopefully. It's something we'll repeat and foster in them year after year. I might not be the perfect parent. I might not be the crafty, hands on, cookie-baking mom that all the neighborhood kids love. I loathe Play-Doh, I despise messes, I lose my temper.
Know what else I do? I apologize to my kids when I'm wrong. I apologize when I've let stress get to me. I tell them that I love them. I encourage them. I reinforce their strengths. There are so many things I could do better, but there are so many things I know I do well.
If you're in that boat with me, you are doing just fine. We'll row together, ok?