It’s been eight very long years since my youngest left for her first day of kindergarten, a first day that was just a small glimpse of so many more firsts yet to come; and a reminder of so many firsts that had passed. A day that happened, for me, with nothing more memorable than pure relief. She took that bus to that school that day, and all I remember feeling is free.
She was the last of six to go out my door for that first day. I don’t know if I even have a picture. I was just so happy to have everyone safely where they should be, to have them all be someone else’s responsibility for just a little while. It had been a long, hard summer, and my first as a single mom.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, I was a bad mom that summer. Tears and fears, numbness and raw edges; anger and so, so much sadness. That was my family that summer, the summer I made daddy leave. Now is not the time to visit that topic, or to try and explain why I did what I did. Just know that I didn’t take on sole responsibility of six children easily and without thought.
It was a messy fireball of a summer.
Today, eight years ago is heavy on my mind. She turns 13 this week, and my babies are gone. It’s a win for me, it really is. Especially because I have another turning 18 this week, too. A week of wins, of milestones. No more babies, and I grew them mostly on my own. This is a win.
And all I feel is the loss. The loss of eight years of their lives, when I was too busy with stupid stuff like work and chores, depression and managing chaos. I put out fire after fire after fire, and never stopped to see the beauty in the flames. And there was beauty there, if I could have looked beyond the smoke.
I won’t get those eight years back. Nor will I get the five that came before, as difficult as they were. That is a loss; a loss of seeing them innocent and learning, and how they flew so free. Carelessness that came from being babies, from not caring about what others thought of them, from knowing someone would be there to pick them up and make it better when they hit the ground. I hope they think that they had me back then. I do not.
I look back and hear me yelling about that carelessness. I hear myself correcting that freedom, reminding them of their boundaries and harnessing their flight. I remember the longing I had for MY freedom, for the seasons to pass, for the grass to grow. Oh, how I wanted the blanket of silence.
So I realize, this week, I have won. The seasons did pass, and the quiet blanket has begun to cover my days as they learn to lean on their friends and how to mind their own boundaries. The silence becomes louder than the noise I used to wish would end. Their boundaries are their own, and no longer include me. I realize that their energy was MY energy, it was what kept me going, and moving through each of those seasons.
She turns 13 this week. She is not the first to turn 13, but she is the last. The baby is gone, the young lady is emerging. I know there will be more fires to come, hopefully I can stop to see the pretty flames, and learn how to fan away the smoke.
Because as I realize that I have won, I realize even more sharply that I have lost. As I am celebrating, I am also mourning. I will try to reconcile the both and start looking deeper into the fires.
I will try to see the beauty of those flames.