[WHO] On the Night Before the First Day of Kindergarten
My first born son starts kindergarten tomorrow.
He was born three weeks after I finished grad school. All of my friends, who I knew through school came to my 30th birthday party when he was 8 weeks old, talking about their new jobs and how excited they were. I longed for sleep and fought to seem interested and supportive rather than devastated, lonely, and exhausted.
I was jealous and felt left out, secretly worried that I’d thrown away my chance at finally having a career by having a baby. I’d worked my whole life. I’d had a million jobs. But a career? I was so close and yet, still just barely able to walk without pain and take a normal length shower.
What if this was a mistake? I asked my husband, wary eyed, sleep deprived, leaking and exhausted.
Look at this child, he said, gesturing toward our infant snoozing peacefully in his arms. You think something as incredible as this baby could be a mistake?
I guess not, I said. He was beautiful and sweet. I’d always wanted to be a mom. But secretly: I wondered. Did I choose the wrong time?
That’s the thing about motherhood. It shakes up your identity, transforms your body, interrupts your identity and threatens to completely take it away, and just when you think you’re completely erased, slowly, bit by bit, you get to know this new version of yourself.
Five years ago, I went on an interview 2 weeks post partum because I was so worried the world would move on without me if I took a break from hustling for my place in it (I declined the offer. Thank goodness for that moment of clarity and my husband‘s encouragement to take a beat).
Five years ago, I laid on the couch for hours under a sleeping infant who, if I dared move (god forbid I left the remote out of arms reach), would immediately wake up.
Five years ago, I thought it would never end. The exhaustion, isolation, and fear weighed heavily on my body, mind and spirit. I was so jealous of the moms of school agers with their experience, full nights rest, and kids who could feed themselves and use the bathroom alone.
And now here we are.
The last day of early childhood.
Over the years since, I’ve stayed at home, worked part time, full time, as a consultant, volunteer, then full time, then part time again and now full time once again. It has been a wild ride of hustling to get a solid professional career underway while having the privilege to carve out time with my son when I wanted to, and then after his epilepsy diagnosis, needed to.
Looking back, I really like the person I’ve become since becoming a parent. I am far more aware of the depths of my heart and capacity for loving and being loved. I am far less self involved. I am far better at functioning on minimal sleep than ever before I had kids. And as much as I miss the fun days of my early 20s, I’m far happier overall now than I ever was back then.
But what I’m most proud of in the end, is my beautiful baby. I have a healthy, kind, funny, affectionate, smart as a whip and brave little boy.
“It just keeps getting better,” my mother in law told me when she flew to California to meet him. “They start out as your little babies and then they become your friends.” Not only was this the absolute best thing I could have heard back then, it kept me afloat on the hard days and keeps me looking forward to Dylan’s growing up.
If you’re the new mom reading this right now, I’m here to tell you that some days or weeks or months feel like they will never end. Delight in the small moments. Let yourself have a bad day. Cherish the snuggles. Be relieved when someone else holds your kid or changes the diaper. Sniff all the Dreft. Be angry that you’re doing vomit laundry AGAIN. At 2 am.
And love the shit out of the people who help you survive early childhood.
To follow is a love letter to these people:
To the incredible woman who helped me return to work (and my dream job) for the first time as a mom after a year off: Maliah, I love you always. Thank you for dealing with our insane household of craziness and allowing me to go to work knowing full well my son was loved, cared for, and safe.
To his preschool teacher, the woman who called when Dylan first went to the hospital to check on him, kept a careful watchful eye on him at in class when he came back from the hospital (the first day apart from him I wasn’t sure if I could even make it through the day), advocated for him throughout the entire building, and helped me survive his diagnosis, Kristin, you are a part of this family forever.
To his next nanny, Carolynn, let’s just be honest. You keep this house running during the summer, two summers in a row. You kept BOTH boys safe, happy, and learning and growing, while I was an exhausted new mom of two hustling for her next dream job. I love you. See you next summer. You’re stuck with us.
And of course my husband, Damon, who was there every step of the way. The best dad I’ve ever seen in action and the best partner I could have ever asked for. Thanks for sacrificing your sleep for mine while holding down a high pressure career, for always being there for Dylan and me and putting us first, and for your words of wisdom and encouragement on the hard days and for bringing champagne on the victorious ones.
This list is not exhaustive. Spoiler alert: I plan to write about you sometime soon. If you read this, I love you for it. Thank you. Now excuse me while I cry all over this My First Day of School chalkboard sign.