I’m the mom in the school supply aisle getting teary because another year is about to start and I might not be ready. I’m the one who buys shoes for feet that are suddenly two sizes bigger and I have to hide my watery eyes from the young saleslady lest she think I’m really strange. I’m the one who can’t hold the camera still as my little one walks down the aisle as a flower girl because she’s so much braver and bigger than I had realized. I call them motherhood tears—the tears born of an emotion unique, I think, to motherhood. They are tears of pride and gratitude, fear and awe, excitement and the deepest love.
They aren’t the tears of frustration or exhaustion—though I’ve cried plenty of those, too. These are the tears that come out of nowhere, that I sometimes feel silly for crying. Tears of the heart.
I used to think this was just me—that other moms didn’t tear up at some of the simplest things. But it turns out that I was wrong. I’ve nodded at other moms crying at dance recitals and daycare drop-off, let them know I’m right there with them. Thankfully, my friends have owned up to shedding these tears as well.
Consequently, I’ve stopped trying to hide or hold in the tears. My six year old daughter has been noticing these moments. She caught me crying on my son’s last day in his toddler class at daycare and since then she wants to know why I “cry like a mom.”
So, why am I crying over school starting?
I’m crying because they are one year older. It doesn’t matter how prepared I am or how many years I’ve been dropping them off, I’m the mom tearing up by the door and ugly crying in the car all the way to work.
I’m crying because she asked me in the middle of a Saturday morning if Santa is real and I have to tell her the truth. There’s no warning before these big moments. There’s no lead-up or road-map to help navigate to the perfect answer at the perfect time. There’s just the jumping in with both feet hoping I’m doing it right, holding my breath until it’s over and then realizing as I stress-eat in the kitchen that I’m crying tears over Santa because she’s old enough to not believe.
I’m crying because he’s getting his first haircut. Those baby curls are my favorite. They smell like no-tears shampoo and curl out even more after nap-time and in the morning they make the most perfect bed-head. I know she will cut those curls, trim them just a bit because I’m clearly very protective of them, and those tiny snips will reveal that really he is just a little boy hiding under baby curls.
I’m crying because we are at Sesame Street Live and they love Elmo as much as he says he loves them. Is it a truth of parenting that the opportunities we have to help our children feel pure joy overwhelm us with emotion perhaps even more than them? I certainly hadn’t expected to tear up watching giant puppets parade on stage, but I did. Because they were so happy how could I not cry?
I’m crying because she’ll soon be on the stage at her recital/play/performance. The costume, rehearsals, nerves. We’ll talk about it for weeks and then it will finally be here. And she’ll be up on that stage, singing or dancing, delivering lines or doing cartwheels, I won’t be able to help but cry tears of pride and relief and oh-my-god that can’t be her because she is just so brave and grown up.
I’m crying because the older kids will be on the stage at her recital/play/performance. They’ll be older, more trained and more mature. They’ll have more lines or harder dances or sing solos. And I won’t know them. At all. But every time I watch them perform, I’ll tear up and feel ridiculously silly. But those big kids? Those will be my kids one day. One day so much sooner than I think. And they will have more lines or harder dances or solos to sing and how will I handle that they are no longer small?
That’s why I’m crying.
Related post: A Letter To My Children On Their First Day of School