I love to play “this time last year.”
As in, this time last year, we had just moved into this house. I’m pretty sure we still had boxes with the packing tape still sealed. And I know I still had suitcases full of clothes in my closet because these little feet were still tucked safely inside and I didn’t need half my wardrobe.
This time last year, I still had a baby girl. Ok, yes, technically she was a toddler. But I could still get away with calling her baby. She let me and there wasn’t enough evidence to the contrary to make me stop.
Today, we’ve mostly unpacked all of the boxes. My closet is once again full of my clothes, fully unpacked. Those little feet kick and move on the outside now.
And this girl is officially a don’t-call-me-‘baby’-big-kid with one year of preschool under her belt.
When I reflect back on those tear-filled days of September, they look hazy and faded. I remember the crying and the angst and the anxiety. I remember that she cried in the morning as she dreaded that moment of drop off and I cried in the morning too, as I drove away. I remember hearing that she cried at lunch time and at nap time and I remember that I cried each night as I prepared to face it all again after a few hours of sleep. I remember that we cried those tears and I remember that those tears felt so heavy then. The burden of all of the new and the change overwhelmed our everyday.
But today, those feelings of sadness and fear have vanished so completely that I don’t even feel the spot where they used to be.
Over the past nine months, our family opened our hearts to the new and the change. And we’ve been forever changed for the better because of it.
Our girl went from new and scared and shy to settled in and adjusted and fearless and outgoing in a matter of months. School and its friends and lessons and songs and processes became a way of our life. We now talk in school shorthand at home, its phrases and words now infiltrating that special language of our family. We’ve all worn t-shirts adorned with the school’s name, even the baby, because we caught the spirit. The teachers, women who smiled kind, stranger smiles at us through those first days now smile big, friendship smiles when they see us and welcome both my children with open arms.
We learned to trust. We learned to face that which scare us and push on through. We learned that change is hard but the other side of change is beautiful.
And, again, every time I think that parenthood settles in at a certain point and becomes familiar, routine, expected, it surprises me with another shocker.
Every time I think my girl is grown past the point of me being able to notice her changes, she quite literally blooms right in front of my eyes.
Every time I think that being a parent and loving these two littles has opened my heart to it’s widest possible aperture, something else happens to break it open even more.
Last week, we went to her end of year program – an hour of little ones singing songs that they had practiced for weeks. The show had a country theme and so we were treated to little kid voices signing “Looking Out My Back Door” and “Down on the Corner” and, my new favorite, “Take Me Home Country Roads.” Honestly, if you haven’t heard about a hundred little voices signing about West Virginia and mountain momma then you are most definitely missing out.
I held back tears as I watched my girl sing and smile and laugh and dance with her classmates. But I wasn’t so successful as I watched her teachers tearfully graduate the kindergartners. I’m two years away from that day but I could feel it already – the sadness of leaving this place where we have already grown so much.
This week she is soaking up a week of vacation before summer camp, at the same school, begins on Monday. A whole new set of changes and experiences awaits. And we’re excited.
But in the meantime, I’m singing her country songs this week as they run through my head and I’m reliving the big moments of a big school year. And M and I and Grandmom here for a visit are celebrating our girl, how far she has come, and how far we know she will go.