This morning I used the drop-off line at my sons’ preschool for the first time. As I drove off, I watched my 3-year-old put his backpack on, grab his teacher’s hand, and wave goodbye. It was a long, lingering goodbye. He was wearing a proud smile that lit up his face as he stood there and waved.
I lost it.
I was sobbing uncontrollably—the ugliest of ugly cries, one I don’t think my husband has even seen. Tears fell so heavily from my eyes that they created a puddle on my lap. I walked into my 10:00 therapy appointment looking like I had wet myself.
Crying after dropping my kids off at school is not like me. I’m not usually the sentimental mom. Don’t get me wrong—I am a very emotional person, but with having three boys back-to-back-to-back (my oldest was two months shy of 3 when the baby was born), I haven’t had time to be a sentimental mom.
When my eldest son learned to crawl, I was in the bathroom puking from the severe hyperemesis that debilitated me during my second and third pregnancies. I was too sick to be anything other than relieved that his screaming because the toy he wanted was just out of reach would now stop.
After I dropped my firstborn off for his first day of preschool, I didn’t return to an empty, quiet house. I took my 6-month-old home to nurse and change him before I packed him up and took him to the grocery store. Shopping with one child was so much easier than shopping with two.
When my middle child took his first steps, I was in the hospital being treated for pregnancy complications. When he took his second steps, I was cleaning marker off the wall from his older brother. As he began to really walk, I was once again relieved. He could now keep up with his brother, which cut his whining in half.
When my youngest son looked at me and said “Mama” for the first time I looked back at him with a blank stare. I was empty inside—postpartum depression had stolen every ounce of joy in motherhood from me.
I was drowning in a sea of endless chaos and commotion. I was so busy trying to swim to the top to catch my breath that I didn’t have time to feel the momentous, fleeting, life-changing moments that were happening around me.
But life has settled down a little over the past year. My youngest is nearly 2½, and I no longer feel like I’m drowning. I breathe in life as it comes—deeply refreshing, cleansing breaths. Breaths that allow me savor a moment instead of wishing it away. Breaths that recognize the scarcity of time. Breaths that force me to feel.
I have been dropping one, two or three kids off at preschool for four years now and have never once cried. They have shed numerous tears, but I’ve always been the stone-faced “I’ll see you in a few hours” type of mom who quickly rushes out to begin tackling her endless to-do list. But this morning, as my mind frantically searched to make meaning out of the tears (remember, I’m in therapy), I realized that I was always the one leaving them.
Today, for the first time, my kids left me.
And it felt so good to finally feel the aching of imprints left on my heart by those three little lives. To feel the weight of their precious little souls living in mine.
My boys are no longer babies. They aren’t learning to walk, talk or feed themselves. But they are still learning. Each day, they wake with bright eyes, eager spirits, and an indescribable zest for life. They are learning how to be little people growing into a big world. They are exploring and adventuring. They are pushing boundaries and testing limits. They are slowly learning to be independent. And as they continue to learn, they are inviting me into the magic of the little moments that happen along the way. They are begging me to watch, to pay attention, to show up for them in those moments.
I’m here. I’m watching now. I’m learning to be the sentimental mom so I don’t miss the magic.