Originally published on Motherly
By Julia Pelly
The end of the school year is a time filled with emotion. There’s joy, of course, in the form of end of the year celebrations and class parties and moving up ceremonies. There’s anxiety and stress too, though, often brought on by the scheduling challenges of the celebrations, the coordinating of the ceremonies and the shopping and preparing for the class parties.
But then along with the joy and the stress, which often take a front seat due to the sheer busyness of the season — there are also bittersweet feelings present. Because the end of the school year means another year of our children’s littleness gone. Often, with the way we pack in the end of year events, we don’t get a chance to reflect. There is so much going on! We don’t get a second to really think deeply about the year and all the ways it has changed our children — until we’ve tucked them in, sticky and tired, exhausted from the day’s events watching their not-as-little-as-last-fall’s chest rise and fall in peace.
As I watched my son sleep after that long, last day of school recently, I was suddenly struck by how grown up he seemed. How he has matured over the past few months. That night, I noticed how grown he was in his stretched out legs and the way his hands looked like those of a much older child than the one I’d woken up that morning.
The next day, his being grown showed up again as he packed a bag for the pool. And then again later when he took turns and coordinated games as he ran through the sprinkler with his brother. It was in those moments —the ones where I recognized my son’s size and maturity — that I realized how much a school year had changed my boy. When I think back on this year, my mind easily drifts to the triumphs and scholarly successes that marked his growth—things like scrawling letters or sounding out words or making a first friend. These milestones caused my chest to swell with pride, and, surprisingly, a little bit of sadness, too.
It was in those moments — the ones where I recognized my son’s size and maturity — that I realized how much a school year had changed my boy.
His independence — while exciting! — has also highlighted the slow disappearance of the child who was once young enough to not know how to read or write and wasn’t able to make friends on his own. The child who needed me so much can now do so much on his own. It hit me in a profound way on his last day of school. I also remember the challenges, too. I can recall the worry I felt on his first day and my concern that he didn’t feel happy or challenged or competent enough in class throughout the year. When I put these challenges down on paper I’m aware that they seem small but, as a mom, little things can feel so big when they impact your child. As I thought back on my son’s experiences, I realized a lot of the ways in which the last year was a year of growth for me as a mother as well. Somehow, over the course of the school year, I had to learn how to step back, how to advocate, or how to sit quietly and listen as my child described experiences and feelings that seemed so much bigger than he was. Reflecting and remembering are good — they help us process experiences. Reflection allows us space to learn and grow; to be better and evolve; to find joy and to celebrate. But, as we reflect and recall, it’s also important not to get stuck in the past. It’s important to enjoy the season at hand.
And right now, it’s summer.
The season of splash pads and parks and popsicles! The season of magic and fun and childhood wonder. It can seem like since they’re out of school and they’re not following anyone’s structured lesson plans that they’re not growing. Like somehow we can have a break from watching them grow up right before our eyes.
So, this summer — the last summer that they’re this little — let’s give ourselves permission to take in their smallness and savor the person that they are at this very . moment. We’ll eat the ice cream they scoop for us, get our hair wet in the pool with them, paint and craft alongside them and laugh at the jokes and silliness they surprise us with.
Our babies are growing, and we are, too — each season of motherhood brings us new lessons and shows us new levels of independence from each other. So right now, it’s time to let go of the school year and get ready to enjoy our best summer yet.
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