From Gold to Yellow

Last February, I realized we were in the midst of a “golden age”- the metaphorical definition: origins in Greek and Roman poetry describe a “golden age” as a period of time when people were living in a better time that was pure. For us, I realized there was a simple sacredness to the cadence, the relationships, and the expectations on our family. Mostly the gold glittered around Eli and Andi.

As 3 and 5 year-olds, they were enrolled in preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30-3pm. Andi had two teachers who loved her, offered grace and patience to her quirks, took joy in her vivacious spunk, and carefully carried her from a life of being home with mom to a social life with peers led by other adults. Eli was in a transitional kindergarten class with other kids who were spending their 5 year old year in preschool instead of heading to kindergarten having just turned 5. Eli’s teachers were pure GOLD- a partnership of 2 women who had taught together for 8 years and took joy in the creative freedom to plan their own curriculum to stimulate the imaginations and grow the intellectual base of their students.

While Eli and Andi were at school in great hands, I was afforded personal and professional liberty!  I got to do the work my job required without interruption or the worry that I was choosing to ignore my children to get work done. I got to work out at 10am or plan lunch meetings without trying to arrange middle of the day child care. Oftentimes, my good friend Carol would drive the kids home in the afternoon affording me even an extra 45 minutes of work time and giving the kids a special Sonic treat. The 5 year old tradition of GG days also continued last year. Grandma Gayle had both kids all day on Mondays so I could work, rest, or play myself and Eli and Andi could enjoy days together with their energetic and generous grandma!

Mostly however, the golden occurrences happened daily at home. We never had anywhere to be before 9am so E and A got into a rhythm of eating breakfast, saying bye to Daddy, and then heading back to their room to play together. Their relationship as brother and sister grew exponentially. Connecting through play and all the daily adventures together gave them a precious friendship with each other. The three of us were free to plan adventures, meet friends, enroll in gymnastics, leave town, and generally do whatever we wanted all day every day! We ate edamammae for lunch on Wednesdays at home, went to the library every other week and always stayed long enough to read a couple books while we were there, we walked to Hyvee, and played with friends on most Fridays.

Summer afforded us even more opportunities for sibling love and free play. Elijah, Andi and I swam 4-5 times a week, joined the summer reading program, I walked while Eli rode his scooter and Andi biked, and we enjoyed the Olympics.

Drew was settled into his job, I enjoyed my job and was invited to new opportunities within it, we were both getting in shape and loving our Crossfit Northland gym, and we were blessed with great family and friends close by. By the end of January, we were overjoyed to find out we were pregnant!  There were so many simple, joyful, routines and relationships in our year.

And now, it seems a bit of the gold has lost its glimmer. Just last week, Elijah went to kindergarten. A huge yellow school bus scooped him up and carried him off at 8am and didn’t bring him back until 4pm. Most alarming is the shocking reality that this yellow terror (yes- too strong of a word) will come EVERY day, taking him away from home and to school, Monday- Friday, leaving Andi and me alone, at home!

You might be able to tell I had a hard week last week.

Yes, I am excited for Eli to start school. He showed himself to be ready- he’s socially enthusiastic, figured out how to start reading on his own this summer, is motivated to learn and was excited to start in a new place. Last Tuesday night, he couldn’t fall asleep. His mind raced with what the next day would hold. He never wavered from being excited and confident. Wednesday morning, he couldn’t wait to get out the door and to the bus stop to meet the older neighbors whose rank of school attenders he’d finally be joining. We did a special breakfast (good friend Melissa showed up as the bagel fairy!), prayed for him on the back deck, dressed him up spiffily, and walked as a family to the bus stop.

When the bus pulled up, Elijah ran right for it. I whipped around to Drew as my eyes immediately filled with tears, “We just let him go?!”, I fretted. Not waiting for his answer, I ran across the street and grabbed Eli for one more blessing and hug. He was grinning from ear to ear and I held it together for him at that point. When the bus pulled away, his face was beaming from the window as he waved furiously. He was off and I was undone.

Luckily, Melissa was still around to take Andi back to the house so they could color with her very own “my brother went to kindergarten today so I got new glitter crayons” crayons. I asked Drew if he could sit with me on our bench outside for a few minutes. I needed holding and help to process. I just kept thinking it was so unfair that he had to go to school EVERY day now. Yes, I had relished the freedom of last year’s school days but that was only twice a week- a much more sane arrangement if you ask me. He had learned letter sounds, simple math, and how to read by the end of the pre-K year- what more could he need to learn that he had to be somewhere ALL DAY, EVERY DAY now? Was he going to have friends? Someone to eat lunch with? Was his teacher going to take my place as the leading lady in his life? Would he learn bad words like “butt” or “shut-up” and want to eat chicken poppers in the cafeteria on Wednesdays as Andi and I sat home eating edamammae? Would he like it so much that he didn’t need Andi and me anymore?

He finally got home Wednesday afternoon and was still beaming- just slightly worn down by the long day. He said the bus was fun but so noisy- he couldn’t believe how many kids were talking on the bus! He said his teacher was older than the other teachers but she was really nice. He loved the two recesses and the game with the ball that would go in one hole and surprise you with the hole it would fall out of each time. There was hardly any work, just rules and routines that first day. He had no problems eating lunch and made friends, but didn’t know their names just yet. Once again, Wednesday night, he couldn’t sleep. His mind was replaying the day, his dreams of new friends, a day with peers and a whole new world to explore had all come true thanks to that ride on the yellow bus.

Thursday was the worst for me. Andi and I spent the day alone at home together. Reality hit really hard. The house was so quiet! (Later when I told Eli about our quiet he said, “Well yes Mom because I’m your question asker-guy and I was at school!”) Andi left breakfast and went back to her room to play alone. I had two conference calls and instead of knowing the kids were faring for themselves TOGETHER, I had to make sure Andi could fill the time by herself- a whole new layer of guilt and balancing kids and working from home settled back onto my shoulders.

I cried while Andi rested in the afternoon. I spent that time grieving what we had lost. Despite so much to celebrate for Eli and the newness to embrace,  I needed some time to realize what was gone. The golden days of daily, simple, sibling play were gone. The unrushed rhythm of mornings that start at 9am are now replaced with structured lunch making, dressing early, shoe-tying mornings that must be finished by 7:55am. Instead of knowing what he does all day and having all the say in what happens- I don’t control any of his day past 8am or after 4pm, and only know what he tells us when he comes home. So many new influences are pressing in on his life. Can I trust that the good influences will take precedence and that he’ll know how to flee from the negative ones? When he came home from school Thursday, he headed straight to the backyard with friends without saying hi to Andi or me. Later, inside he told Andi to stop following him around. It seemed he had grown up and out of our little threesome from last year in 2 days! He hardly talked to me about the day and couldn’t wait to go back.

He can’t wait to go there and I found myself wanting to keep him here. The tug and tension seemed so severe. I had to remind myself of all the families I know that have been through this momentous kindergarten send off thing and who still have families who are in tact, siblings who are friends and allies, and relationships between moms and sons that are still close.  I also realized I’ve come through the shock, disillusionment, and life reorientation of being a first time mom to a brand new baby, I could make it through this as well. Just like that “first”, I believe I will come out having been matured, released of  superfluous worry, and relieved of unnecessary mental and behavioral stress. I will muddle my way through the newness of the moment, learning what is important and what’s not, and leaving the rest just to be.

Andi and I will make it through. She has the opportunity to make her own friends, live into her own desires and interests, and grow up more into herself. She will start preschool in about a month that will meet three mornings a week. Then, about 2 weeks after preschool starts, we will welcome a new sibling into our family! The changes are far from over for our family this fall. Eli’s flight from home was just the beginning of the growth and transformation that will characterize the rest of 2012. We don’t know the gender of this new baby so the gold that has turned yellow will be tinted blue or pink come early October!

Yesterday’s sermon refrain was that the headline of my life is “GOD”- not me creating life myself but knowing that God is taking care of me, watching over me, advocating, providing, sustaining, and loving me and our family. Yellow school bus, I do not fear you!

Eli- as you pioneer for our family, thank you for your boldness. You are a personable, friendly, compassionate, socially astute, people person. You have an uncanny ability to realize what is going on around you and appreciate the people involved. When you were 2 1/2, you asked adults about their day. As a toddler you were interested in relationships- who was married to who and who was her sister? You are energized by being around people and invite others to participate in your constantly creative and constructive play. May kindergarten feed your passion for learning about life and letters, grow your concern for friends and give you the opportunity to forgive foes. May your respect for authority and your willingness to be led develop so that you are a humble and respectful student. May your identity be solidified in Christ and your confidence be secure- you are a smart and loved child who can question, be curious, and take risks. May you always always know that you have a foundation of family at home who loves you, cheers you on, supports you and welcomes you back every day- no matter what.

Thank you Gold for the year that was 2011-2012. We welcome you Yellow.

I will walk into this new season with faith and refuse to be overwhelmed. I look forward to what will come with new routines, new friends, and a new family member. Thanks for letting me process and whine, mourn and weep- I’ll move on now.

PS- This JUST in. In an astounding turn of events, as I neared the end of writing this morning, I went upstairs to find Eli in a funk. He couldn’t finish breakfast and wouldn’t put on his shoes when it was time to head toward the bus. Instead of finding shoes, he found the toilet and thew up. Turns out, this kindergarten thing might not happen every day- day 4 is now a sick day! Eli and Andi and I will be home together today! I called an attendance line for the first time ever.  The couch calls- I must go cuddle with my new adventurer who is grounded for just one more day.

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