You know that feeling when you get out of bed in the morning and your foot has fallen asleep? You stand up without realizing that it has gone numb, then you stagger around like a disoriented zombie, clutching at chairs and walls just trying to propel yourself forward. Then the tingle starts; slow at first, a soft hint of a tickle. You think you can handle it, so you roll your ankle and tap your foot, a challenge of sorts. But then it happens. A thousand tiny pin pricks of misery suddenly descend upon your foot, and you lose all control over your senses. You hold your breath, roll your eyes and flap your hands to hurry the pain along. Then you take tentative steps, boldly pushing back against the ridiculousness of it all until finally you are free enough to run wildly, like a Chihuahua hopped up on speed, ready to start the day.
Now that school has started again, this pretty much describes my daily morning struggle as the parent in charge of getting all three children to school in one piece, all the while maintaining the illusion of being a respectable, responsible adult along the way. It isn’t pretty, friends.
This morning as we were getting ready for the first day of school, my son (who is going into grade 1) came up to me and said, “Mom, I feel a bit scared about today. Maybe a bit sad too. I don’t know what it’s going to be like, or if I’m going to like my teacher.” He said it quietly, as if the softness of his words would somehow blur their meaning.
“That all sounds perfectly normal to me,” I said thoughtfully. “It’s a new school year with a new teacher, and new classmates. I would imagine that a lot of kids are going to be feeling exactly the same way you are.”
“I guess,” he said, studying his hands. “Everyone keeps asking me if I’m excited to be starting school, but I’m not.”
I nodded as I gently wrapped my arms around him. “There’s no right or wrong way to feel about the first day of school,” I said, reassuringly. “Whatever you feel is perfectly okay, because your feelings are yours to have. I’m glad you told me about them though, because my job is to help you understand those feelings and to figure out what to do with them.”
And that is something we all need in life, isn’t it? Someone who will tell us it’s okay to feel what we feel, and who will still love us anyway. Someone who will listen as we talk, without necessarily trying to fix whatever it is we are trying to work through. Someone who isn’t going to tell us that we can’t or shouldn’t feel a certain way, or try to convince us that we are just fine in spite of the fact that we are clearly not. We need people who will press their shoulder up against ours when we need someone to lean in to. We need people in our lives who will say, “I get it, and I’m here for you, so go ahead and feel all the big feels.”
For the first time in my life I am facing what feels like an overwhelmingly enormous change. And that is unusual for me, because I have spent my entire life adapting to and seeking out change. I have moved enough times to be able to call 27 different houses/apartments my home. I have gone to 4 different elementary schools, 2 high schools, 1 college, 2 universities, and I have had at least 13 different jobs. I have had an endless stream of friends come and go from my life; so many, in fact, that I no longer expect anyone to stay.
Yet here I am in the longest, most stable and healthy relationship of my life, living in the same house for the longest stretch of time ever, raising three of the most incredible children that I never dreamed I would even have. My entire world has been dedicated to staying home to raise my family; it has become all I know, and it is all about to change.
This year all three of the kids will be at school, and my house will be empty. This year I will need to find my way back into the workforce, and into an adult world that I no longer feel a part of. I know that in a month’s time I will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about, but for right now, for this very moment, I feel unexpectedly sad, strangely overwhelmed and very much alone. For someone who has never questioned the fact that change is inevitable, I am finding myself shedding an awful lot of tears about something that I know deep down will be completely fine.