My kids start school one week from tomorrow.
Mothers seem to fall into two categories: the I-can’t-wait-for-the-bus-to-arrive type and the summer-went-by-way-too-quickly sort. I find I’m nestled right in between the two.
On one hand, for the first time in eight years, I’ll only have one child home all day. On the other hand, that child is three-year old Henry. Henry is the sort of three-year old who makes me want to light my eyelashes on fire by breakfast. By lunch I wish I was drunk and by dinnertime I am crying. In the fetal position. Let’s just say he’s better in a group.
Like most kids, Jack is nervous about school. For a few weeks now he’s been expressing anxiety about going to third grade; his fears are simply amplified by his autism. He doesn’t know much about his new teacher, Mrs. B. I tried to fill in the gaps by telling him I heard from a reliable source at the nail salon that she’s a retired police officer, so she probably still has the right to bear arms and will have great control over any classroom nonsense. Oddly, this didn’t seem to comfort him.
Things took a turn for the worse when six-year old Charlie – who, as usual, was half-listening to the conversation – shouted “What? A bear ate off his teacher’s arms?” (Yes, Charlie, a bear ate Mrs. B.’s arms clean off this summer. Now, instead of using fingers, she will hold the chalk in her mouth and attempt to write legibly on the board.)
I’m probably just as anxious as Jack is, not because I’m worried about handing him over to the ex-police-officer-turned-teacher-Mrs. B., but because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed him all summer long. Over the course of two months, I’ve watched him relax into a sun-kissed boy with an easy smile. I’ve watched his face light up when he cascades down the slide into the clear blue water of the town pool. I’ve watched his sly grin spread across his delightful face in the rear view mirror when Katy Perry plays on the radio.
And I know with school comes the inevitable stress of homework, of schedules, of activities. And that stress brings Jack’s deeply furrowed brow and increased stimming. His anxiety goes through the roof.
Together our family made a list of all the things we’d like to do this summer, things like eat s’mores and catch fireflies, go to the beach and swim at the pool. But when I glanced over the brightly printed paper, I see the nuance beneath all of the activities and destinations: what I really want to do is drink each of my kids in like a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade with a long, stripe-y straw.
I don’t want them to get older.
Because where will I be without their voices echoing throughout the house all day long, asking for things like goggles and pretzels and sneakers? Asking me what-are-we-going-to-do-today and can-we-get-ice-cream-after-lunch?
Rose is off to kindergarten this year, which means we’ll have to wake her for the early-morning bus. Where will I be without her sleepy face walking into the kitchen to give me a drowsy kiss while I make breakfast? Without Joey asking me to check out the progress on his latest Lego creation and the sounds of Charlie drumming in time to the music upstairs?
Without warm afternoons at the lake and rainy afternoons watching movies on the couch?
Where will I be without Jack describing the shortest route home while we drive around town listening to his favorite radio station? Just yesterday he barked out “You didn’t make a full stop at that stop sign! Bad driving decision!”
I’ll tell you exactly where I’m going to be: I’m going to be lost.