Just two weeks from tomorrow, all – yes, all – my kids will head off to school.
It’s a year full of “firsts” for us. For the first time, Isaac will enter high school (and for the first time, I’ll have two high-school kids.) For the first time, Clara will enter kindergarten. For the first time, I get to back-to-school shop for a girl, which is a lot like shopping for the boys but with more cheetah print.
And for the first time, all five of my children will be in school all day long.
That means, for the first time since becoming a mother nearly 17 years ago, my days will be my own. I have to tell you, it’s a pretty mind-blowing thought.
While all these firsts are exciting, I’m also feeling a bit of melancholy. With Clara we’re experiencing a lot of “last firsts,” and this year’s feel particularly meaningful and momentous.
After all, this is the last first time one of my children will go to kindergarten and the last first time I’ll sit in an empty house, contemplating the nine quiet months stretching out before me, fluctuating between elation and loneliness, wondering how to make the best use of my time and whether it would be too pathetic of me to use my hours of freedom making welcome-home cookies. (Every day.)
The last first time I’ll watch them all running out to me after school, swinging their backpacks with excitement, each child trying to talk over the others to be the first to tell me about his or her day.
As my kids have gotten bigger, I’ve experienced a mix of satisfaction and unease. I love watching them grow older, wiser and more independent, and celebrate those “firsts” with them as they slowly evolve into the self-reliant people they will eventually become. But there’s that underlying anxiety, too, that I think most parents can relate to: we realize that as our children grow, we lose our grip. We know it’s natural and right, but even as we embrace it, even as we celebrate the freedom that comes along with it, some small part of us resists, panics, longs to feel the way we did when they were dependent babies: in charge if not always in control. Needed, in a very real, very immediate way.
While I am still needed in new ways, my kids can now feed and change and toilet themselves – they need me more for love and guidance than sheer survival. And the idea of being in control is laughable now, especially with the teens. Not only do two of my boys tower over me, but I am thoroughly outnumbered to the point where I couldn’t effectively keep tabs on all my children at once even if I wanted to. They buzz around me, as erratic as bumblebees, lighting briefly at the dinner table or swooping in for an unexpected hug. I watch them from an ever-increasing distance, offer guidance, take all the displays of affection I can get while I can still get them.
Last week, for the last-first time in our family, a child (Clara, this time) got a handful of shots that she needed to start kindergarten. Clara was momentarily outraged at this imposition, refusing to thank the nurse as she left (but reluctantly admitting at the last moment that she did like the receptionist’s skirt.)
Later that day she was treated to ice cream and a new toy. She bragged to her brothers about the ordeal and showed off her bandages, clear squares featuring yellow butterflies. By the next day, her appointment was all but forgotten, just another moment in the life of a child who has been born into privilege she can’t yet begin to understand. The privilege to take all this – a school to attend, a cheetah backpack to hold her supplies, four strong, healthy big brothers to protect her from harm, vaccines to protect her from illness – for granted.
And Clara and I both have the privilege of knowing that her first day of kindergarten is very likely just one of many “firsts” we’ll experience in her life. One day, I am confident, she will celebrate her first day of high school, of college. Her first day at her first “real” job. Some of my children, no doubt, will experience their own “firsts” with their own babies. And eventually, I’ll experience these firsts all over again with my grandchildren.
Many, many children around the world – and their parents – do not have this same privilege, the same confidence in a lifetime of firsts. Many, many children do not not make it to their first day of kindergarten or even reach their 5th birthdays. Today, I’m asking for your help to change that.
During August 2014, every time you comment on or share this (or ANY) Blogust post, Shot@Life partner Walgreens will donate a life-saving vaccine to a child in need (up to 60,000).
So please, leave a comment – and donate a vaccine or two or three – right here on this post. You can tell me about a “first” in your family or just say “yay Blogust.” Any comment, no matter how short, counts. You can comment more than once. You can comment on every single Blogust post several times and they will all count!
Shares on Facebook and Twitter count, too. Just be sure to use the #Blogust hashtag so your share gets recorded.
To make it really easy, you can just click here to tweet: Because All Children Deserve The Privilege of Firsts – 1 share = 1 vaccine. #Blogust http://ctt.ec/VJd1U+.
Will you please help me spread the word and save lives?
During Shot@Life’s Blogust 2014—a month-long blog relay—some of North America’s most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life Champions will come together and share stories about Happy and Healthy Firsts. Every time you comment on this post and other Blogust contributions, or share them via social media on this website, Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation pages, Walgreens will donate one vaccine (up to 60,000).
Blogust is one part an overall commitment of Walgreens donating up to $1 million through its “Get a Shot. Give a Shot.” campaign. The campaign will help provide millions of vaccines for children in need around the world.