Trapper Keepers, First Days, and Walking through the Doorway

Today is the first day “back to school” for my two boys, Felix and Oliver.  Though they are only 4 and 2, their “First Day of School” conjured up powerful emotions in me – and also taught me a lesson by experiencing the day through the lens of a parent.

During grade school years, I remember vividly the annual trip with my mom to K-Mart or one of the big stores to purchase pencils, notebooks, folders…and if I was lucky: a Trapper Keeper! There was something so magical about choosing bright-colored papers, perfectly sharpened pencils, and unblemished erasers…. almost anything seemed possible for the year ahead with fresh school supplies.

Every year there was also the anticipation of sharing the adventures and the “news” of the summer with friends. Today Oliver’s big news was “no more pacifier!” and Felix’s was “I got my first real haircut!” (Certainly over the years these news items will change dramatically.) But along with excitement there is also some anxiety around what changes might occur in the coming year – from new faces to new activities and subjects.

Felix and Oliver both woke up eager to get to school – quickly packing bags with their snacks, racing to get dressed, and running to the tram to reunite with their friends, teachers, and beloved classroom toys.  As we approached the school however– the excitement turned quickly (and visibly) to fear.  Sure, the classroom was appealing with fun toys and crafts and friendly faces; but it was also scary to enter a new stage…even at the age of 2. Or 4. New lesson plans and announcements welcoming new students were hung outside the various doors – all signs of the changes ahead for the boys. Summer had been fun, free, and comfortable – and while today was exciting – change is not easy.

Now we were heading to a new beginning – time to take the next step into an unknown.

Both boys cried, both boys needed extra hugs and kisses, and both boys reluctantly – and fearfully entered their respective classrooms.  They walked through the doorways and after a few minutes, forgot the fears that had grounded them on the other side of the door.  I could hear them both engaged in play and music before I had left the building – fully present and in the moment. Hours later at pick-up time, both boys ran into my arms bursting with “news” and reports on the day and questions about what was for dinner tonight.

I learned something in the short span of hours today…the lessons of the “first day of school” still have resonance.  It’s time for me to walk through a doorway. I admire Felix and Oliver’s steps and their ability to dive into these new environments, even after short-lived moments of crying.   Watching Felix, Oliver and their classmates this morning, and even more so this afternoon – I realized that I have allowed my own self-doubt and anxiety to keep me from leaping into a new stage of life in this new city of Berlin.

I believe parenting involves steadily letting go of one’s children so they can dive in and become the people they are meant to be in the world. Today as a parent I again loosened my grip ever so slightly on these two little boys.  They need to grow, they need to make mistakes, they need to fall down and keep on going – and so do I.  It’s time to let go of my own fears – and walk through a new doorway.


Old Friends

I had the chance to travel to London for two days for a business meeting, where one of my closest friends from college is living now with her family.  As true luck would have it – another college roommate was also passing through London and so somehow we had the great fortune of a rare reunion. It was brief, but it was sunshine for my soul. Both of my roomies have toddler boys, and both are currently pregnant…so the house was full of happy feet, busy boys, bubbles, bottles, familiar maternity clothing, unpacked baby cribs and other gear. A sign of the times…
After my friends put their boys to bed, on both nights the three of us enjoyed peaceful dinner together in the kitchen – the baby monitors were blissfully quiet and so we launched into hours of nonstop conversation. What a gift.  We caught up on the months since we had last been together, filled each other in on family events, talked parenthood, shared what we knew on the college gossip scene (sadly not much), and talked about the friendships that we have developed both pre and post motherhood.At the end of the meal, one of my friends said something I found to be profound, “It’s nice to be with friends who knew me before I was Cullen’s mom.” It really struck me – so simple yet so true.
I love being a mom, and so do my friends – I know we all feel absolutely blessed and fortunate to be mothers. But I do often struggle with what “motherhood” means for my identity – the box I select when filling out forms, the way I describe myself in bios and introductions.  I often feel guilty if I talk about my career first, and then discuss my children.  I feel unsettled if motherhood is the top headline when I am being introduced. Sometimes when I think about “hobbies or other interests”, I realize that those categories don’t currently involve the diverse activities and passions I once pursued, even if these things still matter and appeal to me.
This struggle is not rare or new, and in fact “struggle” is not even a proper term, because it is born from good fortune and the arrival of beautiful boys whom I love, a career that brings me joy and a full days and nights — but I do often wonder if I will ever resolve the dance of the different “boxes” and identities and how to embrace (or is it “balance?”) them all.
Life involves so many twists and turns and complications – some sunny, some messy and some major. There are certainly cloudy days when I feel overwhelmed with anxieties and other sunny ones when I find myself energized by all of the possibilities.
But one thing I am grateful for every single day – is the unconditional love of friends who knew me when my boxes were full of different activities and ambitions – and continue to know and love and see that younger woman as well as the person who checks different boxes today.

London calling...