The Difference A Year Makes

Last year, at this time, I was a nervous wreck.

I barely slept the night before. I tossed and turned and hugged my little boy tight throughout the night as he slept beside me in bed. I woke up early and dressed myself and my son and slowly carefully drove the 12 minutes it takes to get from our house to our destination.

It was my son’s first day of school.

He was only going to a two-day-a-week preschool program from 9-12, but it was the first time he had ever been away from me. He had never had a babysitter and I rarely even let family watch him. To be honest, he had never even been with my husband alone for more than 4 hours. The school separation was going to be a huge deal, for both of us.

When I dropped my son off in 2011, he screamed and cried and I finally had to leave him crying there while I walked out under the teacher’s advisement that he would stop crying and settle more quickly if I was gone. This, I knew was true. I used to be a teacher, after all. But it didn’t make it any easier for me to be the mommy that had to leave my crying baby nearly in tears myself.

With mixed emotions of apprehension and excitement, I drove away from the school and went to Starbucks. I ordered a Pumpkin Spice Latte, and made myself comfortable in one of the bar seats facing the window. I watched as people scurried to work or shopped at the outdoor mall. I felt pangs of quilt and frivolity for the luxury of being able to people-watch on a Thursday morning when most people were working or in school. I felt unencumbered and oddly uneasy with my new-found alone time.

After trying to enjoy my latte and spending a little too much time in my own head, I decided it was time to leave Starbucks. Except it was only 10:15. And so I drove to my son’s school and sat in the parking lot until noon, anxiously awaiting pick up time. I just did not know what to do without him for that long. I felt like a piece of me was missing.

This year, at this time, I was ready.

As it turns out, I got pretty used to my two mornings off a week last year. I spent most of last year re-discovering my identity outside of motherhood and I felt pretty exhausted after a long summer with very few breaks from constant toddler care.

The night before, my son slept in his bed while I slept in mine, (for the first half of the night anyway).

This year, my son is going into the three-year-old class three days a week from 9-12, but with extra curricular activities of soccer, art and gymnastics after school each day, so I will be picking him up at times ranging from 12:30 to 1:00pm. His school is no longer a new environment, but a trusted and nurturing one.

We were both excited for school and I may have driven a little over the speed limit to get us there.

I walked my son in and dropped him off in his new classroom. Though he was a little hesitant and a bit nervous when we arrived, he became distracted with washing his hands in the new (to him) big boy bathroom in the three-year-old class. I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, said, “Mommy loves you,” and slipped away with no tears from either of us.

This year, I went straight to Starbucks, ordered my Pumpkin Spice Latte, and drove home to my house where I set up my laptop, lit a candle, and spent some time enjoying the fall weather, listening to music, blogging, and soaking up every second of my blissful alone time.

This year, I may or may not have been a few minutes late to pick him up.

What a difference a year makes.

First Day of School Pics

Noah’s first days of school. Left: 2011, 2 years old, apprehensive. Right: 2012, 3 years old, attitude.

Noah playing with play dough at school Left: 2011 Right: 2012

The Significance of a Yellow Birthday Party

Sometime in April or May, my son started asking me for a “yellow birthday party.” Initially, this kind of intimidated me. I wasn’t exactly sure what a yellow birthday party was. So I asked him what he would like at his yellow birthday party.

“Um, ye-whoa cake and ye-whoa cupcakes and ye-whoa candles, and ye-whoa baboons.”

With these instructions in mind, I did what any one would do in this time of creative crisis; I searched Pinterest. And then I got excited because people have actually thrown yellow parties before and they were adorable! So I gathered all of these ideas together and made my own Pinterest Board: Noah’s 3rd Birthday Inspiration Board.

And then, I got SUPER excited because think of all the yellow food! Bananas, pineapple, cheese, Goldfish crackers, and lemonade. And then I got even MORE super excited because those are all perfect toddler foods! My son has come up with the BEST toddler themed birthday party ever!

So I made my Pinterest inspiration board and typed up a Word Document listing all needed party supplies, a guest list, food, and decorations. In May. (If you are trying to decide which part of that to make fun of; the part where I actually devoted a Word Document to my son’s party or the part where I did that in May, go ahead and know my family made fun of me for both.)

My son is so excited about this party. He has been telling people for months that he is having a “ye-whoa birthday party in Sep-ember.” And I have been planning the yellow birthday party in September since May.

For months, my son and I have slowly been gathering yellow things when we see them at the store, collecting them all carefully in the guest room closet. Throughout the summer I have slowly bought out most of the yellow things in the Richmond area. It’s like when you are pregnant and all of a sudden you notice all of the pregnant bellies and babies around you. But this time, I notice all things yellow.

I have also been preparing the house with diligent cleaning and yard work. Last week I re-organized the master closet, the linen closet, the guest bathroom closet, and thoroughly cleaned the entire house. I arranged for people to come and power wash the deck, re-mulch the back yard, and spray for mosquitoes this week before the big day, September 1st.

And then last Wednesday, after a particularly long day at home with the toddler, I went to the grocery store by myself when my husband got home. It was as much for my own sanity as it was for our need of milk.

While I was there, I decided to go ahead and order the cupcakes and balloons.

And that was it. Those were the last items on my list. After months of planning, all of the steps are done. Now, we just have to wait and have the party. Which means that my son is turning three.

The reality of that hit me as I began my drive home from the store, and found myself sobbing at a red light. My tears continued to fall as I wiped them away and drove the familiar route from the grocery store to my house. My baby is turning three.

September 1st is hard for me. It is the anniversary of one of the worst days of my life; a difficult birth experience I still have not mustered the courage or words to share.

But it is also the birthday of my son, the center of my world, my sweet boy that has changed my life in so many amazing ways. And this year, my baby will be three.

It’s amazing to see him now in all his three-ness, and at the same time see him at all of his life stages; his newborn helplessness, his baby coos, his beginning words, his toddling steps, his ever expanding world view.

Is this what being a parent is always like? Having the ability to see not only the person before you but also the child that they grew from? Knowing them not only for who they are now, but for who they were and for who they have always been? Having a love for them that is so intense it sometimes threatens to overpower you?

September 1st seems to sneak up on me every year with an overwhelming surge of mixed emotions. An anniversary of a hardship blended with the birthday of my greatest gift. And this year, the emotional pondering of my mixed blessings of motherhood are wrapped up in the intricate details of an extensively planned yellow birthday party.