I toured a preschool for Little Lady this morning. How are we already here? It goes so fast, these years. Which is amazing considering how long the days last. She is exhausting. She takes more of me than I thought was humanly possible to give and still stay alive. She is a force so strong and passionate and wondrous that I sometimes can't even process it without getting exhausted. I've never experienced anything like this child, this sweet, lovely girl who calls me Mama. This girl, who is my tide, who levels me and drives me insane and makes me want to drink sometimes, this girl who I can't be away from for more than two hours without me getting the separation anxiety, this girl who is my daughter, she is breathtaking. And she's going to preschool already.
I'm not one to feel sad when my kids grow up; on the contrary, I relish each new phase, each new season, knowing what a gift it is to get to see my kids grow up. I love watching them come into their own, seeing it all come together as they learn who they are and who they want to be. I love watching them experience life. The challenges, the failures, the triumphs, the passion and knowledge that grows within and strengthens them, it is beautiful to watch it all unfold.
So I was pretty excited to check out a preschool this morning and sign up. And it really was fun. Little Lady got to jump right in and play and make a craft and explore something new. The teachers were very nice, the philosophy works for me. I like everything about it. And yet, something was holding me back from signing on right then and there. There is this nagging feeling in my soul that I have learned must not be stifled. So we said goodbye and packed up in the stroller for the walk home.
As we walked, watching the golden leaves fall from the trees, I was thinking about my reservation and trying to put my finger on it. And I started thinking about when I signed up the boys for preschool four and a half years ago. Little Man was going to be in the 4's class and Jameson was going to be in the 3's class. I had to wait until a month before school started because we didn't know where we were going to be living. But the preschool just up the road from our house had a very short wait list and by the time school started they were both enrolled. Only Jameson never made it. But Little Man loved his preschool and so did I.
The teachers were amazing. Organized and energetic and loving and disciplined. The place was marvelous and it was a blessing for Little Man to have some type of stability in his life during those four months of agonizing upheaval when Jameson was in the PICU. It was maybe the only place in his life that wasn't sad during that time when we were always gone or so exhausted that eating was a chore or so scared and sad that my eyes were always swollen from crying. And his teachers always gave me extra smiles and said they were praying for us when I would pick up Little Man, still wearing my hospital badge and red eyes. And when Jameson died, Little Man's teachers came to the funeral because they wanted to support him. I never really understood how much presence could mean until that time in our lives.
It occurred to me on our walk home, with the golden leaves falling all around us, that maybe this nagging feeling is just one more way that I'm missing my boy, missing the places and time when he was still here. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing so well and then it seems like the world just sucker punches me right in the heart. And I marvel at the way grief can crawl into the most unlikely times and places and settle in. Sigh.
But this is where I need to give myself some grace. This is a hard season. Even if Hubs weren't working such long hours. Even if we were close to family. Next week is the anniversary of my due date for the baby we lost three years ago and next month marks four years since my boy went Home.
I don't always know what grace is supposed to look like. I think, a lot of the time, it's my two kids still here. It's making hand turkeys and reading epic adventures on the couch until much too late on school nights. Its homemade bread and watching golden leaves fall from the trees. I think it's family movie nights and telling jokes and eating cake for breakfast. Sometimes it's letting myself have a good cry or abandoning the laundry mountain to write instead. And some days it's all of the above, with maybe a little stolen halloween chocolate on the side. And today, right now, I think it's coffee with whipped cream, which preschool paperwork filed away for another day.