In a few weeks, I'll be sending my second kid off to school full-time. It's a moment I know I should feel sad about, and believe me, sometimes I do, but mostly I feel guilty because I don't.
I remember a time when I seriously considered homeschooling my children. Back when I had my first child, back when he was still a baby, I imagined us moving to the mountains.
I was thinking about having three more kids, living off the grid, and soaking up every last bit of their wild childhood.
I dreamed about things like baking pies and going into town for local Farmer’s Markets with my young brood in tow, letting them help in our booth. I dreamed of watching their self-guided learning moments in a playroom/classroom fit for a home living magazine. Let’s face it, I’d probably run a super successful blog about our magical homeschooling and mountain living adventures. (I’d been reading a lot of The Pioneer Woman lately.)
It was a fantasy, through and through.
This was before I had more kids than hands, before they could talk and subsequently talk back, before I realized I am wholly unqualified to teach most subjects and skills, including the ones I myself would need to survive off the grid. Not only did I not decide to move to the mountains (it only took one bout of life-threatening pneumonia to put me off that ill-advised idea), but I also decided to send my kids to preschool, cutting short my already limited time keeping them all to myself.
It was nowhere near the dream life I had imagined once upon a time, but once reality hit, sending my kids to school (early on) was what I needed.
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In a few weeks, I'll be sending my second kid off to school full-time. It's a moment I know I should feel sad about, and believe me, sometimes I do, but mostly I feel guilty because I don't. Instead I feel relieved, knowing that the daily battle with a bored kid will be over, and she will get to whine at someone else for six hours a day.
Thank god you’ll be going back to school soon. It’s a thought I have all the damn time. At least once a day, and sometimes much more often. I feel guilty over the enormous relief I feel at sending my kids to school, knowing full well that I will yearn for these full-time mothering days in a not-so-distant future.
I feel like I should be relishing my last days of having my daughter all to myself. The guilt is amplified by the fact that I've already been through this transition once before. I remember the strange, difficult first weeks of sending my son to school full time. I know how our relationship changed and became slightly more distant once I no longer held every moment of his day. I know I should make every effort to soak in these last moments before our relationship changes irrevocably.
Being with someone 24/7 is no easy task no matter how much you love them. It’s easier to love with a little bit of breathing room.
But instead, I find myself counting down the days until I finally get a break.
It makes me wonder if maybe I won’t miss these days of full-time parenthood when they’re gone for good. Maybe I’ll feel continued relief at the fact that I’ll get to stretch out into myself a little bit more, regaining some of my freedom as they gain theirs. I wonder if it’s really so wrong that I might enjoy them being gone, that I might enjoy them more if I’m not constantly tethered to them.
Because it is also true that when my son went to school, our relationship changed in good ways as well. The transition was difficult, but I also became more aware of how I was using our limited time together. I chose battles more carefully. Listened more intently. Played more joyfully.
Having less time with him made it easier to appreciate our relationship — made it easier to nurture that relationship because we were not on top of one another all day, every day. Being with someone 24/7 is no easy task no matter how much you love them. It’s easier to love with a little bit of breathing room.
So perhaps it is time for me to let go of the guilt and embrace the fact that this season of life is coming to a close, and it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I don’t have to wring my hands over whether or not I made the most of every moment (I already know I did not).
Instead I can move forward with the knowledge that our relationship can evolve for the better, even though we’ll have less time together.