When my daughter Anna started kindergarten, she walked into her classroom and shooed me (the helicopter parent) away with the statement, “You can go now, Mommy.” She didn’t bat an eye, much less shed a tear. I, however, barely made it to the car before I collapsed into a fit of sobs, pitifully hugging the steering wheel. I was handing her off to strangers — people I was sure would have a much greater impact on her life than I would now. As far as I was concerned, I might as well have been sending her off to college…”I’ve done all I could, I hope she turns out okay.” I soon realized, as I showed up almost daily at the school for Reading Renaissance, Thursday folders, Room Parent meetings, class parties and lunch visits, that I hadn’t exactly sent her off into the big, scary world all by herself. But that first day, it sure felt like it. Why couldn’t she stay little just a little longer, how was school going to change her? Where had all the time gone?
Just a few months later I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and my world was completely turned upside down. Suddenly I wasn’t worried about Anna growing up, I was worried about missing it. In a horrifying flash everything was brought into perspective: what if I didn’t see her get her driver’s license, her first date, her prom…what if I didn’t see her start second grade? I realized how lucky I was that I had been there to see her start kindergarten — something I had completely taken for granted. Watching our children grow up is a gift. Yes, it is bittersweet because nothing makes the swift passage of time more visible than when our children, who it seems were babies just yesterday, are letting go of our hands and walking off on their own.
Now that I am cancer-free and life has returned to the normal (read: chaotic) tempo, I find myself again getting caught up in the whirlwind that is life with kids. But more often than ever it hits me to stop. Stop and savor this moment. And I forget the To-Do List and I bury my face in their hair and relish just being here with them right now.