Monday, August 25, 2008

Back to School

It is the first day of school, and already everything is playing like an old routine.

No one’s alarm went off except mine, and the irritated teenagers of last nite who felt oppressed by my assurance that I would check and make sure they got up on time, had to be grateful for my motherly intrusion.

A spat over who will shower first ensued, with one daughter insisting she takes longer to get ready with hair and makeup and; therefore, deserves the first shower—even though she had to kick out the other daughter who beat her to it this morning. This could be easily resolved as we have two showers, but apparently using my shower is like drawing the short straw, and completely undesirable. Once again, I imposed motherly order on the situation, declaring that whoever is in the shower first gets the first shower. (I strongly recommend that those who take longer to beautify themselves for the day make sure they get in the shower earlier or deal with the consequences.)

Mutterings of disgusted responses accompanied (I am sure) by eye-rolling are the fruits of my motherly ministrations to the small disasters of mornings. And this morning, above all mornings, is significant and my presence an extra (although secretly desired) nuisance.

I used to be an integral part of the back-to-school routine. Helping pick out that all-important first day outfit. Overseeing the preparation of the backpack. Double-checking lunch money or making a lunch to be proudly carried in a new lunchbox. Sharing flutters in the tummy of that first day anticipation—excitement and anxiety churning like a loop-the-loop roller coaster in the pit of the stomach.

Today I sit in the background. Waiting for my big turn to participate: driving my daughters to and fro. And as I listen to their getting-ready sounds, I picture them walking into a new year. A year with nothing yet written on it. A year to be whomever they choose to be. Get the grades they want. Hang with the friends they want. Grow up and away from me and into themselves a little bit more. I feel each stretch toward the undeniable sun of independence and adulthood acutely these days. I am ever-aware that my time in my role as a daily caregiver and influence is limited. My days are numbered. The things that I perceive to be in my control, ever-more restricted.

But as Gabi stands before me, still dripping from the shower and making small-talk about how we each slept last nite, she throws me a bone:

“Do you want something to eat?” I ask.

“Nah,” she replies, “I always feel a little funny…upset in my stomach on the first day of school. Thanks, though.”

She opened the door of her experience a sliver and let the mom come in for a few seconds. Time to see that she is still a little girl and she still needs reassurances and, maybe—even though it can’t happen where others may see—that little reassuring squeeze from my hand to hers.

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