You know that feeling you got in college when your professor gave you months to work on a project? At the time it was assigned, it seemed like you had plenty of time to get it done. But, as the deadline drew near, you began to panic. Did I do it right? Did I do my best? Did I leave anything out?
That's how I feel right now.
Lily Baker graduates from preschool on Friday. As happy as I am for her, I am also sad. Partly because I love this stage of having her with me and not in school full-time. And partly because she's the baby.
Once Ann Catherine started school, I realized how life changes. No more impromptu trips. No more staying home just because she's tired, or because we can. No more random visits during the day for ice cream or to feed the ducks at the park. No more snuggling at home on a rainy day watching her favorite movie.
It's not as if Lily Baker is with me all day anyway. She goes to preschool four mornings a week. During that time, I do my freelance work or whatever else needs to be done. But once I pick her up, we have two hours before we pick up Ann Catherine. I love those two hours. I love having that time alone with her before the day gets crazy.
And Fridays belong to us. She's home with me and we do whatever we want. I wouldn't trade those Fridays for anything in the world.
Thursday of this week, she had "K for a Day" at the school she'll attend in the fall. If ever there was a realization that your child is growing up, it's that. She loved it. Lily Baker has benefited from going to the school for various things over the last two years that Ann Catherine has been there, so it isn't this new, foreign place like it was for AC.
Plus, she's just ready.
Besides being the quintessential second child, LB is my child that I could drop into any situation and she'll swim, not sink. She is going to be fine.
I am another story.
I count it as one of my greatest joys in life that I was able to stop working full-time just before she turned two. I have loved this time with her. I cherish it.
But, as my mother has reminded me time and time again, this next chapter will be just as beautiful. Different, but beautiful.
And I must embrace it.
The other day, we checked Ann Catherine out of school early for a dentist appointment and went to Chick-fil-A for lunch. Since it was late in the day, we were the only ones outside on the playground. Halfway through lunch, a mom and her teenage daughter came outside to eat. As they watched my girls play, I heard the mom say to her daughter, "Oh, honey. I remember when you were that age playing on this playground." Just hearing those words made me want to cry. It only affirmed how quickly time slips away.
Then as my children played, I watched this mom and her teenage daughter. They talked, they laughed - it was evident they loved being together. They had the same relationship I had with my mom, the same relationship I hope to have with my daughters when they are older. It just looked so fun.
I realized that my mom is right. Each stage is beautiful. I have been so tightly holding onto this stage in life because it's all I know. I have been afraid for my girls to grow up. And while I'm still not ready for it, I must embrace it. Each stage is unique in it's own right, with it's own positives and it's own challenges.
I mean, let's face it. I can romanticize this stage of my daughters' lives all I want, but it's not always great. I certainly have moments where I think I'll pull my hair out. Just yesterday, after hearing "Mommy!" for the umpteenth time, I told them I was changing my name. There are days I wish they were more independent. I mean, it never fails they need more milk once I finally sit down to eat my lunch. There are days I wish Lily Baker wasn't so grumpy or demanding.
Then she crawls in my lap and snuggles up to me. And I forget all of that.
I guess that's life, isn't it? It's the good, the bad and the ugly. But when each stage is over, the bad seems to fade away and you only remember the good.
That's how I'll look back on this time with LB. I'll probably forget the meltdowns and the whining. Instead, I'll remember dressing up as princesses, taking trips to the playground and singing Muppet songs in the backyard at the top of our lungs.
And I'll thank God for every minute of it.