Yesterday my third child ended his elementary school "career". I remember, very clearly, sitting alone in the family room the night before he was born, eating popsicles and watching "The Net" (starring Sandra Bullock and featuring a very poignant death scene involving my beloved Dennis Miller).
Thirteen years. Blink of an eye. How does this happen?
I remember sitting in one of my thousands of ECFE classes, and hearing this very over-used, but very true sentiment: The days may be long, but the years are short. I remember thinking, "Ha." But it's true.
While we are busy planning dinners, wiping butts, washing clothes, doing all of the million humdrum everyday things that we do as moms, the years are tiptoeing out of our lives. Like a stealthy little kid hiding behind the couch while mommy and daddy watch a movie, time sneaks out right from under our noses.
And I freaking hate it.
I look back on all those endless days of tantruming kids, stinky diapers, food-encrusted high chairs, the ten millionth time I hurled a stroller into the back of a van, the countless games of "Shoe Hunt", "Mitten Search" and my favorite, "Find the four week old sippy cup of milk". I remember thinking that there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Little did I know that there was no end, there really was no tunnel. The light was around me the whole time.
Natalie Merchant, granola queen of my tender early twenties, sang, "These Are The Days". Listen to that song, fellow mommies. If you can listen to that song while thinking about your children's lives thus far and NOT shed a tear, you have a much stronger constitution than I.
I work at my children's school, very part time, as a sort of "child herder". My official title is "Playground Supervisor". Back when I first started, my Henry and his classmates were starting 3rd grade. I spent warm fall days out on the playground with them, helped them find a temporary pair of gloves from the lost and found on bitter winter afternoons, and told them to "finish their milk" a thousand times in the lunch room. I watched them grow from chubby-cheeked, big tummied cherubs into tall, gangly, coltish tweens. Saw braces go on, and then come off. Hugged them when they needed it, let them cool off when their budding tempers flared.
And yesterday I watched as they took in their last day of elementary school. Watched with pride, as this particular group of kids never ceased to amaze me with their genuine love and tolerance for each other. Sure, there are BFF's, there are the Jocks and the Smart Ones, but this bunch was always (for the most part) kind to all. I know that will change in the next few years, cliques will form, new kids and new groups will merge with these and form new posses.
But yesterday, they were that same group of third graders again. Swinging on the playground, playing a game of Lightning on the b-ball court. Laughing, hugging, smiling for a million pictures.
And for now, that is how I will remember them.
Moral of this little story? Take lots of pictures, and instead of just uploading them and forgetting, start an online account (flickr, whatever) and save them. Label them with names, for some of the little faces in those pictures will move on before the next "graduation" day. Spend a little time at school with your kid. Get to know their friends, get to know the teachers. Talk to them, not just about how their day was, but really talk. Ask them about the funniest thing they can recall from the past week, the past month. Hug them, while they'll still let you.
Love them. These really are the days.