I’ve waited for this day for more than six years. Really, since April 2005 when I found out I was pregnant with twins. Today was the day that not only my older daughter, but both my twin boys would be in school all day! The longest amount of consecutive free time to myself since my daughter’s birth eight years ago! Was my first day of freedom what I expected? Well…kind-of.
The big event started to deviate away from what I dreamed yesterday. My husband, who, while sentimental, never feels emotions before the actual event, broke his norm and had a day of full out melancholy over the end of the “little kid years” chapter in our lives.
“It’s this horrible feeling,” he said, pointing to his stomach, “not dread, but mournfulness.” I gave him a sympathy hug then went back to putting the finishing touches on the six snacks and three lunches I had to prepare for the next day.
Then later, as I made sure the outfits my three kids picked out weren’t dirty or full of wrinkles and checked to see their three backpacks were fully stocked with water bottles, a glasses case, and all the papers I had to fill out today, I caught a glimpse of my husband looking slowly through our kids’ baby pictures. For about a half a second I wondered why I wasn’t mourning these last moments of my kids’ lives. As soon as it came, the thought left and I finished preparations for the next day and went to bed early.
This morning was a rush similar to those we experienced when the boys were in preschool and my daughter was the only one who HAD to be to school on time. The only difference was that I woke up a half hour early to allow time for pictures. Then it was the usual: “Kids, what do you want for breakfast? No Wii before school! Get your clothes on! What do you want for breakfast? NO! You can’t wear a sweater and cords, it’s going to be 90 degrees today! What do you want for breakfast?? Why are you still in your underwear? No bows and arrows at the breakfast table! Stop tackling your brother, he’s eating! Shoes! Shoes everyone!” This hour-long shout fest hosted by my husband and me, yipping and calling like cattle wranglers, was customary to get our herd out the door to school on time. We snapped the traditional pictures of each of the kids by the front door to mark their height and were off.
Lineup was the usual circus as all the parents who would send their kids to school on the school bus decided to escort them to their doors. While being pushed and elbowed by other parents and kids, I kissed my boys good-bye and left them under the watchful eye of my husband while I escorted our daughter to her mobile classroom outside the school that’s bursting at the seams with 850 kids.
Within minutes all the chaos of activity dwindled to almost nothing as the kids were swept into the classrooms. And in that silence it hit me; all of my kids were gone. Like a flash I went from someone who everyone depended on to someone who, at that moment, no one needed. As quick as a blink, I got the day I was wishing for: the first day of the rest of a life that wasn’t dictated by cries of my children and their constant drive to pull me in three separate directions at once.
And then I got this horrible feeling, right at the core of me, not dread, but mournfulness. Because my babies weren’t babies anymore and I knew that the years ahead would pass as fast, or maybe faster than their little kid years. When we got home my husband commented on how weird it will be to live most of the day without any of them by our side. And while we each busied ourselves with errands and work, we both dwelled in our sadness for most of the day.
Then the moment arrived that we were waiting for! The kids came home! And they were so full of excitement and wonderful stories about their day! They all ran around the house leaping and calling out new things they experienced. “I got a day planner!” yelled my daughter. “I got to eat lunch in the cafeteria!” shouted one of my sons. “I got to build a tower!” laughed the other. That horrible feeling right at my core melted completely away. They had started the new chapter of their lives, as well as our lives, and we were electric with joy because of it.
Jennifer Smith-Daigle is a stay-at-home mother of a third grade daughter and twin kindergarten boys. She and her boys are survivors of Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, being some of the first 200 people in the United States to be cured by Fetoscopic Laser Ablation surgery. Jennifer’s life before kids included world travel, historic preservation, and archaeology digs. When she’s not busy with a house full of kids and enough mammals to constitute a small zoo, Jennifer finds freedom in freelance writing, martial arts, and gardening.