Holding On. Holding Back.
As the first day of school approached, I got weepy. I could feel my body gripping, clinging, and clenching. I did not want what was happening to be happening. My youngest was going to kindergarten, joining my oldest at full time elementary school.
After choosing no daycare and part time preschool with years of COVID quarantines and stay-at-home school laced in, my kids had spent their time with me at home. That season was coming to an end despite my body’s attempt to take control and still time’s inevitable passing.
I was looking forward to a little quiet, uninterrupted professional time. I was looking forward to slightly healthier boundaries between work and parenting instead of feeling like I was doing both poorly and simultaneously every day. And yet, my heart ached. I was not ready to let them go.
Thanks to embodiment practices like yin yoga and breath work, I noticed my grasping with kindness and self-compassion. I turned toward it and allowed myself to feel it. I continue to do so. It doesn’t make it hurt less, but the work also feels like tending to myself, nurturing myself, softening, and healing.
One thing I notice is that in the holding on there is an element of holding back. With my children at school, it is time for me to step into my work, step into my power, and step into my professional life in new ways. I have never wanted to hide behind my children, rather be a woman who brings her own things to the table, too. Being a mother is my very favorite thing to be, and I want to be someone other than a mother, too.
There is an element to holding on that is pure desire to have my children close to me, to watch them, delight in them, connect with them, and hear what they are thinking about. And there is an element of holding on that is me a little scared of claiming my own place in the world.
Seeing both components has invited me to be brave, open my palms, relax my jaw, and live into this new season with deep love for my children and myself.
When my oldest child was a baby, he’d bring an object like his toothbrush from upstairs downstairs, gripping it in his beautiful hand while I carried him. When he was a little older, he’d grab a rock from the side of our house to bring with him on his stroller ride to the park. Older still, he’d choose a toy figure to place in the back cartridge of his tricycle while he pedaled to the playground. I saw these things as transitional objects, something to bring from where he was to where he was going. A through line. A tether.
During the COVID surge, after seven months of kindergarten at home on an iPad, it was time for him to go to the school building with a mask on. He got a little emotional during morning snuggles when it dawned on him what day it was. “It’s hard not knowing exactly what’s going to happen,” he said. “I know the first day will be the hardest. I just wish I could skip ahead a few days.”
He cried once when someone told him he would never be a baby again. He cried on his birthday one year because being a new age felt like a lot of responsibility. He cried when we got new, more comfortable patio furniture thinking about all the beautiful memories encased in the old hard stuff. Time passing fills him with a sense of longing. Transitions are hard and carry weight. I love this about him. I am kind and gentle with him in these moments of transition. I tend to his needs and validate his feelings. He gets this from me. I am filled with bittersweet longing at some point every day. I cry a lot during seasons of transition. Can I be as patient and understanding with myself as I am with him? As I love him well, and I turn that love toward myself?
This fall, he doesn’t have any of his friends in his classroom. He sees them at recess, but still, it’s hard. He is aware of his patterns and is patient with himself. When I picked him up after the first day, I asked, “How was your day?”
“Great,” he said, then paused, adjusted. “Okay. It was okay. You know Momma. It’s just going to take some time.”
My eyes teared up. That’s right, I thought. It’s just going to take some time. My son is raising me.
Several weeks into our new routine of dropping both of my children off at school, I still cry a little every day. After years of working and parenting simultaneously due to COVID, my body is patterned to frantic days of being pulled in multiple directions, multitasking, working in the nooks of life, having interrupted thoughts. My nervous system is taking time settling into the quiet house, living into the new normal. It’s hard.
I am attempting to replace effort with time. I am attempting to love myself well. I am allowing my wise child to remind me, It’s just going to take some time.
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