As my husband and I dropped off Rebecca -- our 3-and-a-half-year-old daughter -- for her first day of nursery school last week, I realized that it was the first day of her 15 year five day scholastic journey. We've entered the big time. Basically, she is about to graduate high school and go off to the University Michigan -- my alma mater.
I mean college.
I mean we'll let her decide.
But you get my point.
The obligatory "1st Day" sign was made. We forced her to take the photos we wanted to post on Facebook (I mean save forever in our photo album). The clock struck 9:00 a.m. School was in session. Rebecca didn't even turn around for the movie scene farewell. She was over the moment.
Days pass. As every parent hopes, Rebecca talks about how much fun she is having and all the new friends she is making. The highlight of one day was finding out that one of her new classmate's middle name is "Rebecca." Talk about having her mind blown. We've discussed this five times.
Everyone talks about life flashing by in the blink of an eye. It was just February of 2010. I was just nervously packing my hospital bag, gearing up to become a first time mom (cue tears streaming as I write this). I was praying with every bone in my body for a little girl exactly like Rebecca. It is amazing to think now how I didn't know this little girl yet. I didn't know her personality, the sound of her voice, the feel of her little hand gripping my finger.
This little person -- who I know better than anyone else in the world -- is now in school five days a week. She feeds herself, goes to the bathroom herself, picks her clothes out and dresses herself ("I said a DRESS!"), and even sometimes... refuses to hug me.
And then there's me: 35 weeks pregnant and about to pack the infamous hospital bag again for our second child, who I know just as little about as I did Rebecca at the same point. I'm freaking out more because I know what is coming instead of freaking out about the unknown.
I cannot believe school has started. It is the end of September and our family has reached a pivotal checkpoint in preparation for the baby's arrival. I was excited for the return of the routine and the glorious 20 hours a week of activity (not provided by me) for the home stretch of my pregnancy. We have no outside help, so school is my babysitter/day care/nanny/childcare provider. Also, being in her groove would offer some type of continuity so when the "new sheriff" comes to town, Rebecca will have her own thing going on and not feel totally shafted.
I just cannot stop thinking how Rebecca's time as an only child and as the center of my universe is over -- which makes me so sad. She, on the other hand, is ecstatic. This very affectionate little girl, who is SO excited for her sibling to come, has no idea what is actually going to happen. I feel guilty about that. I am sure many of these emotions stem from my fear of almost being the mother of two when I am an only child (something I explored in my last blog post here).
I laugh at the small amount of sleep I get now since I know it will feel like a vacation compared to what is about to come. Mostly, I mourn (in-advance) the end of my alone time with Rebecca -- something I cherish more than anything in this world. We have fun on our stroller-less New York City escapades, easily hopping in a bus, subway or cab with just a small bag. I know I will still have moments where it will just be the two of us, but it will not be the same again.
Color me hormonal, but each time we read, watch TV or play outside, I think how -- in just a few weeks -- this will be done with a newborn on my breast, my hand in a diaper, or my eyes slowly shutting and my attention to Rebecca almost nonexistent. I already resent myself for my expected short fuse, for changing Rebecca's world, and leaving her to feel like a second-class citizen. I shirk at the anticipated tantrums and whining (is there anything worse than whining?).
Life is not like a box of chocolates for a pregnant woman with a 3-year-old. My life is like a carousel. And much like the whole summer spent unable to hop on, I can only watch it spin round and round while I get dizzy.