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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obama's speech is NOT the main thing most moms are thinking about today

Big sis' and 2nd-grader Claire supporting Phoebe on her first day of kindergarten.
Sept. 4, 2009

As most kids are back to school today, we are slowly getting back to blogging over here at Moms Without Blogs. Today's post is from one of our hardcore MWOBS, Kath, who I have known since we were nine years old. As I read this piece, I got tears in my eyes as I often do when reading her because her words most always resonate deeply within me. Probably because we are cut from a similar cloth.  

My second baby, Phoebe, started kindergarten last Thursday. My heart did similar and different backflips of emotions as I watched another kid of mine take her place on the kindergarten carpet in a circle of strangers knowing full well some of these strangers would become her best friends. (and if she's lucky, one of them will be a lifelong friend like Kath is to me.) 

So the buzz du jour is certainly Obama's speech on education to the kids of America, but over here, all I can say is I'm psyched that Kath has written about what's really going on in most of our mama hearts today as we watch our babies take another step on their journey in the world. 

Written by Kath

It’s officially back to school time for everyone but we've been back to school for weeks here in sunny Arizona. I think it’s someone’s cruel joke to make kids return to school in mid-August. Picking up your children at 3 pm when the temperature exceeds 105 degrees (WITH humidity, I might add) is pure torture. 

The eve before the big “first day” I stood in the doorway of my boys’ room. I took in their over-stuffed backpacks, zippers strained from new crayons, pencils, notebooks, and glue. I saw the new tennis shoes, gleaming and clean (for the last time!) awaiting new adventures this school year. The uniforms were washed and hanging in the closets, the new socks neatly folded in the drawers. I sighed, and couldn’t help but feel, well…sad. Something was bugging me because I felt a little dread about the next day.

As we walked on campus that next morning, you could see the moms and dads had an extra spring in their step. It reminded me of that “Staples” commercial. You know the one, where the dad skips around the store to the tunes of the Christmas song “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” He’s dancing through the isles, throwing school supplies into his cart in glorious anticipation of the return to school. Yep, most parents I saw that morning had that same giddy expression on their face. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I just felt, well sad. What the heck was up with that??

In the days since that first day, I’ve tried to make some sense of this sadness. Why am I not like the other parents? I should be thrilled that my kids are back in school, why aren’t I?

I keep remembering a conversation I had with my dear Irish father after I had my first child. He told me that the world is a “magnet.” “When you’re pregnant or your child is a baby, they are as close to you as they ever will be,” he said. “But gradually, the world pulls them away, little by little, until they are grown.”

At the time, the words were sweet, but I just couldn’t comprehend them. I mean, my nipples were cracked and bleeding from being “so close” to my son. He wanted to nurse non-stop. I was longing for a little magnet pull of the world to create a little distance.

But now, I think, I get it. I’m sad this time of year, because I’m feeling that pull. School reinforces the pull of the world to me. During the summer, my kids are mine. Each and every day, I have them. We relax in our PJs, go to movies, swim, take vacations. They are all mine, and although they can sometimes get on my nerves, I truly and absolutely love it.

When school starts (and all the activities that go with it), I sort of “lose” my kids. They spend more time at school and activities than they do with me. And my heart hurts. Oh, I know, it’s good for them to go to school, to learn, to be active. They are growing up. I understand.

But my heart just can’t. Children are little for such a short amount of time. Those first 5 years go by like the blink of an eye. Then that magnet world really starts to pull.

I know that in a few months, this sadness will be gone. I will enjoy watching my children learn new things at school. My heart will burst with joy as I cheer them on at their activities. They will grow and change and develop and all will be good. 

But for today, I’ll embrace the sadness a little.

As we walked around school the first day, many of the parents asked when my daughter would be starting kindergarten.

“Next year,” I said.

“Wow! Only one more year to go!” they’d remark with that look that says “hang in there” to the other parent.

Yep, ONLY one more year to go. I’ll cherish every moment of it.


  1. Aww...great post! It was easier to send my 3rd child to kindergarten than my 1st. Now that my kids are 9,8, and 6 it blows me away how quickly they are growing. The 9 and 8 year old especially are asserting their independence. I know in a few short years they won't want to hang out with mom and spend time with the family and will be pulled further and further away. For now I will hold on gently, giving them the freedom they need but the love they need more.

  2. awwww how sweet is that pic...brought back memories of my childrens when they were little...

  3. I remember like it was yesterday the first time my wife and I left our first born son with grandma for a weekend. He was maybe three, and grandma lived three hours away. He stayed for three days, and then they brought him home, as scheduled. For me, it was about some much needed time alone. But my wife lost it. She almost made me turn around and go get him, three different times.

    Now, four kids and many years later, we shop them out whenever we can.

    There is something so precious about those younger years. Cherish every second . . .

  4. 5? School starts at 2 and a half in Belgium. And believe me, after two full months of summer holidays we are a bit excited to send them on their way again.

  5. oh kath, how sweet you are, and what a perfect analogy from your dad.

    i would love to say something wise and profound, as my kids have one foot out the door, but they are driving me insane this week, and i dropped them off at the bus stop 10 minutes early this morning, just to get them out of my hair.

  6. Wow, great post Kath and Lee! I do not totally understand the school loss, but for the last 2 years I have watched my peanut, leave my arms at daycare, join her friends and play. Now she is all mine for the next year or so. And I plan to cherish every minute.:)

  7. Kath, I feel the pull and sadness already and my oldest is only 2! School is so exciting and I'm excited for her, but I feel so sad seeing how fast time is flying with my daughters. I am glad to have read your post, because it helps me knowing that others feel the same way.

  8. As a mommy who just sent her oldest to Kindergarten today, I can totally relate to this post and I am so feeling that pull. Oh My God this is hard.

  9. Baeutifully written. And guess what? You are not alone. I wrote about this last week. I just feel sad. Today was our first day back....and I am heart broken.

    Lee hope you don't mind if I put the link to my post here. Just to share...

  10. What a poignant post. I know I will be sad on my daughter's first day of PRESCHOOL next week. And I'm sure I'll be a mess on her first day of kindergarten next year. I know that pulling of sadness all too well these days.

  11. Kath, such an awesome post. You have such a way of painting a picture for us with your words.

    I'm SAD to say, I'm more like the Staples father. You have given me a good reminder to love what I have now and to cherish my babies everyday. Much too soon, they will be flying away from my little nest and I will be one sad mama bird.

  12. It is such a bittersweet time. I've decided I want a four-day school week. A two-day weekend for the family, four days for the school and one day, just for Mama - that would be perfect.

    Great piece.

  13. My kids have been out of high school for 9 and 5 years, respectively, and I still want to shop for a box of 64 crayons every August. *sigh*

  14. Awww... very sweet. But I was so happy to see mine get on that bus yesterday, and he was thrilled to be going.

    I was torn up when he started pre-school, I sat in the parking lot for the whole 2.5 hours that first day, but when he came out, so happy, and just as happy to be going back the next day, I quickly got over myself.

    I get the magnet thing. I think we just have to make sure we keep our "Pull" on them strong enough to compete.

  15. So far so good on this end of the first days of preschool (knock on wood)...No, they didn't make preschool listen to Obama.

  16. I have to admit that I have been feeling some of that sadness too. My 7 year old son who started 1st grade last week no longer wants to kiss me goodbye :(. I thought that happened a lot later...

  17. I always walk home from that first day of school with tears in my eyes. (and my kids are in 3rd and 6th grade) But like your great analogy, every year they're a little less mine, and a whole lot more the worlds. Nice to know not everyone is celebrating!

  18. Thanks for this amazing post, Kath - I could just FEEL your pain through your words. My little pre-schooler started yesterday and I was a little bummed that she didn't cry when I left her. But she's ready and she proved it with her excitement. She just loved it and I'm glad - but I know the sadness.
    I took a walk yesterday during my brief 3 hours of alone time. I passed a small construction area and actually said out loud - "look at that tiny tractor..." Oops, I don't think my dog or my girlfriend I was walking with needed this prompt. I was missing my tractor-loving 3 yr old...

  19. Lee, sorry I've been so slack....but you know, as an Aussie girl living in an Indian village, Obama's speech hit home in so many ways. It wasn't just for American's with school kids. It was somethin' else entirely.....


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