Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's "Back-to-School" Time...But I've Already Graduated

I’m not one of those sentimental mothers when it comes to school. I didn’t get upset when I sent my oldest to her first day of preschool. I didn’t hide in the bushes with a camera trying to capture those first recess moments (actually, I don’t think anyone could get away with that now. But that could be a great essay topic for a kid someday: “The Day the SWAT Team Came for My Mom”). And I don’t usually cry at all of the unnecessary graduations I think children have these days.

When my son “graduated” from Kindergarten last year, one of the secretaries asked me on my way out, “So…did you cry?”

Well, no.

The truth is…since I’ve started doing this on my own, I’m pretty excited about any steps my kids take towards further independence.

It’s not like I’m ready to ship them off or anything. I just have dreams of, someday, being able to run to the store on my own for a gallon of milk. Of putting on the old iPod and taking a few laps around the block without someone screaming, “MOM! Wait!! I have a rock in my shoe!!!” And I’m wondering what age my kids have to be when I get to wake them up at 10 AM on a Saturday rather than hope they “sleep in” until seven.

My kids are starting school this week and as much as my brain always looks forward to it (because that means it gets a break from the headaches of screaming children), my heart seems to be rebelling this year. Even though I’ve been looking forward to this day since about the second week of summer vacation, today I have been walking around with a chest that won’t let me take a deep breath and tears that threaten to erupt at any moment.

I will admit that part of the problem seems to be that the schools appear to be more disorganized than usual this year. Because of this, I would like to take one of those administrators who smile at me in a vacant way and shake them until they’re as frustrated as I am trying to get 3 children to just “follow me for one minute, damn it!!” into the school, buried under a 50 pounds of school supplies.

(This is when “Widow Parking” would come in handy.)

I’d like to think that if my husband had been here, I wouldn’t have been struggling alone and that he would have been one of the handful of husbands who were there along with their wives…wondering why they were there. But the reality is that I’m sure I would have been calling him while he was on a business trip 1500 miles away telling him, tearfully, about my day.

But at least he would have been someone to call.

That frustration aside, I don’t remember having this emotional problem last year or the year before. I don’t think I was teary. I don’t think I felt overwhelmed. I don’t think that I thought about acts of violence towards elementary school employees (who…lets face it…have their own problems. They’re now dealing with my kids all day).

Is it possible…in all of my “moving on” as a widow…that I’ve finally made a widow U-turn and regressed? I mean, surely if you can regress in potty training, you can regress with grief. You’re still leaking. Just in different ways.

I don’t know if it’s that I’m finally getting to a place where I feel pretty good most of the time...I’m starting to look back on certain moments and can’t believe I actually went through them. And sometimes I look at moments yet to come and can’t believe they’re still ahead.

My oldest entered the first grade mere weeks after my husband passed. She hadn’t even turned 6 yet and there she was, getting ready to go into the big, bad world of elementary school while I was entering the big, bad world of widowhood. I have no recollection of any back-to-school nights or shopping for school supplies. I hadn’t even thought about how the PTO could benefit from my expertise. I honestly can’t even remember if I went to meet her teacher ahead of time.

And if I did, I’m sure I made a whopping good impression.

We struggled that entire year. I did my best to make sure that I packed her the right lunches and got her there on time. I juggled getting the two younger ones to preschool, mainly so that I could get busy at home, sitting on the edge of my bed, staring at a wall. Or my other favorite pastime…laying horizontally in my bed, staring at the ceiling.

You know…all the things that you can’t do when the kids are around.

I’ve been thinking about that time in my life a lot lately. About how I went from barely being able to get a child on a bus, to getting all 3 enrolled, to school, on time (usually), in weather appropriate clothes (except the flip-flop incident of 2009). It took us a few years, but we’re getting it. I miss my husband constantly (especially when it comes to math homework), but I’m starting to really comprehend that this is the reality. And it’s okay.

For the first time, I’m starting to understand that the reason I find thinking about those times in my life as so sad…is because that’s not who we are anymore. And I feel sorry for those people who exist only in my memory. What a blow they had been dealt! I only wish they could meet us now and know that they’ll be okay.

I guess it’s time for my own “graduation.”

© Catherine Tidd 2010


  1. Wow, good post! I love the way you write. Reading it is like having a face to face conversation with you.

    I have to admit...I'm a little curious about the flip flop incident of 2009.

  2. This post made my heart break. I never realized why remembering those moments early in the grieving process made me so sad. Now I know. Not only was I grieving for a husband that I'd lost, but also for a family I no longer recognized. My daughter and I are moving forward. And I say "forward" because I feel you never really move "on". Knowing what I know now I wish I could tell that 30-year-old woman that her 30th year is one of the hardest that she'd ever face, that 31 would be THE HARDEST, and that 32 would find her making decisions and changes she never thought possible.

  3. Love it! Email me if you get stressed about the maths! ;)

  4. Nicola--

    The math program we have going on at the elementary school level is INSANE!!!! You may have to produce a How-To video.


    I'm so glad that (hopefully) the worst is behind you. I'm the same way...I can't believe the person I've turned into. But it's not necessarily a bad thing.

    Hugs to you all,

  5. Your entry has given me goosebumps. Still have them. Oh Cath, you can articulate yourself with the best of them.


  6. I just love your blog. I like the way you think.