Last week, I became a Stage One Empty Nester. My boy started “big” school, while my girl entered third grade. My morning nest is empty — still rife with Legos, crayons and waffle crumbs, but devoid of smallish humans.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. “Secretly thrilled” is battling with “deeply sad” in my parental soul.
Helpfully, Dickson Elementary School hosted a “Tea and Tissues” get-together after the first day’s drop-off. The event offered parents the chance to “share a little tea, tissues, and emotional support” as their children started the school year.
Mostly I needed coffee, but I also wanted to take the pulse of parental emotion. My own pulse was alternating between “at rest” and “heart attack.” Here’s what happened when I dropped off my kidlings on the first day.
My boy was relaxed and happy when I left him in his kindergarten classroom. He let me hug him, said goodbye, and sat down to color with great composure. Apparently, this is the same kid who ran daily to the door of his nursery school yelling “Come back, Mommy!” as I raced to my car.
When I took my girl to her third-grade classroom, I tried to hand her teacher the bag of school supplies we’d purchased the previous day.
“In third grade, the students take care of their own supplies,” the teacher said.
I was momentarily stunned. My 8-year-old, who doesn’t toss her dirty clothes into the laundry basket without an act of Congress, was supposed to care for $50 worth of school supplies? My first reaction was to march over to her desk and organize it myself. I took a deep I-am-not-a-controlling-mom breath and watched as my girl threw some pencils in her desk, then dumped the rest of the stuff on the floor.
In an attempt regain my composure, I told my girl she should introduce herself to the boy sitting next to her. Big mistake. She actually growled at me. I realized, once again, that I should never, ever home-school my kids.
I ran for the “Tea and Tissues.” To my surprise, the atmosphere in the media center was more “champagne and confetti.”
One mom said, “Yee-haw. I’m going to Target.”
Another said: “I’m going to go work out. For as long as I want.”
There was no coffee, but there was much scarfing of cinnamon buns and iced tea. A few moms admitted to being nervous, but the box of tissues lay unused on the table as we chatted giddily about our plans for the day. Although lots of dads dropped off kids that morning, I didn’t see any drop by for a Kleenex.
The relaxed atmosphere knocked me back to reality. Heck yeah, I thought, I have six-and-a-half parent-free hours every day for the next nine months. Yee-haw, indeed.
In truth, part of me has waited years for this exact moment. Now I can go to Ingles without dragging my boy behind me as he begs for doughnuts. I can write all morning without interruption — except for the phones, the puppy, e-mail and the cats. I can eat lunch when other people do, instead of asking people to meet me at 11:30 because I must be at North Asheville Preschool by 1 p.m.
This doesn’t mean that the other parents and I didn’t spend much of that first day or the days that follow thinking about our kids, wondering how their day was going and how they were feeling and if they were making new friends. And it doesn’t mean we all won’t be begging our kids for details of their days every night at dinner.
But thanks, Dickson moms, for the reminder that it’s OK to celebrate, out loud even, the transition of letting kids go and enjoying some time for ourselves. Next fall I’ll bring the sparkling apple juice and the noisemakers. I might even wear a party dress.
— Anne Fitten Glenn is a freelance writer and photographer in Asheville. She’s been blogging about a number of topics, including parenthood, for almost three years at www.edgymama.com.