The Last First Day of School – a minor motherhood identity crisis

By: Jana Greene

Today is the last “first day of school” for my youngest child.  She is nearly seventeen now – a senior in high school.  Before I dropped her off, she and I said a quick prayer together – Dear Jesus, please give her a great first day and a great school year.  Now that she is in 12th grade, she has a lot to look forward to.

But as it is the last day I will ever drop a daughter off for her first day of the new school year, it’s a little bittersweet. As I watched her walk into the building, my eyes stung for a moment. Wasn’t she only a kindergartener clinging to my legs a couple of years ago? Now, she is a beautiful young lady carrying herself with confidence. I am so very proud of her.

Driving my kids to school in the morning is one ritual I’ve tried to keep constant through the years. They rode the bus home in the afternoons, but morning trips were mine. It usually felt like quality time (in 20 minutes or less), except for when they were thirteen and fourteen, and then it sometimes felt like a root canal (what with snarky attitudes and slammed car doors).  But mostly I remember a lot of laughter, and singing to the radio, and really good talks about the deep and the trivial.

A happy morning ride to school made me feel as though my kids would be okay. I would remind them to “make good choices” and get a feel for what was going on in their little worlds. On the mornings all went well, I felt born to be a mom. I didn’t know that they would grow up so fast.

You hear a lot about empty nests but my husband and I can’t really relate to that concept yet.  In our blended family, the children are twenty, twenty and seventeen respectively and all three are still living at home. None of them seem in a particular hurry to fly into the world without us.  He and I often groan about not having FIVE MINUTES alone in the house; we joke that we will have to move to an island in the middle of the night and leave no forwarding address, just to get five minutes alone. We have a bit of empty-nest-envy sometimes, in truth, because I was also born to be his wife and now in our mid-lives, he deserves to be the center of my attention as well.

This morning, the milestone of my youngest daughter’s last first day of school generated a tiny little identity crisis panic attack in my heart. I think that’s normal, but then I remind myself that “normal” is just a setting on the washing machine.

The truth of the matter is that we Moms – having devoted ourselves to our kids – have to learn what makes us “tick” all over again when they grow up. There is so much purpose in motherhood that I forgot it might not be my sole purpose. I’m still figuring out where God’s plan places me in the scheme of my identity, but many times His plan places me nowhere near who I’ve understood myself to be. He knows I will always be “Mom” to my beloved daughters, but His plans for HIS children are grander still.

Enjoy the full nest! my empty-nester friends tell me. Enjoy your kids…they fly away soon enough!  And it’s true – mine is a SENIOR now! If I get teary now thinking about her being in 12th grade, how will I fare when the kids really DO move out?  If I worry about them so much now while they are still under our roof, how much more will I worry when they are out? What will I fill the space with – the space that is feathered now with clutter and noise and drama?

And the small, still voice that I recognize as family, too, says “Trust. Fill it with trust in me. I’ve got them now.” So I have to try, because my Father knows best.

For her last year in high school, I hope circumstances allow me to take my youngest to school each day.  We will laugh and sing to the radio and talk about subjects deep and trivial in twenty precious moments or less, and pray together quickly before she leaves for class. God has fresh ideas for her life, and she has the whole journey ahead of her.

Born to be God’s child, too….

10 thoughts on “The Last First Day of School – a minor motherhood identity crisis

  1. LOVE THIS!!! Oh girl, it did go by so fast, did it not? I totally relate and tear up just reading this! God does have such grand plans for our lives as moms AND as HIS daughters. Still, it’s not the same when they’re gone. Seems like we children of the earth always miss what “used to be” or “isn’t yet”. When all we really ever have is now. Love the post and love the sentenced “feathered with clutter, noise, & drama.”

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  2. Thank you, Liz 🙂 All I really want to do today is write, eat chocolate and cry. Seems cruel that kids grow into their late teens (and independence) whilst menopause is cranking up! Oh well. I love you, girl, and hope all is well with the Grays. Miss you!

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  3. My daughter and her husband lived with me for a while after he emigrated from Belgium. What an adjustment for us all. Then when they moved out, I sat down and whined that I needed to have a baby and needed to give myself a good talking to and remind myself that I had just gotten my life back. Now I complain that the cat ties me down too much. It is so true that we all adjust to the different seasons of our lives. Enjoy the blessing of this season, and when the next comes it will have blessings of its own.

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  4. I love this post . . and something I have been thinking about a lot lately. Both of my sons are now in high school, and soon we will be thinking about college. I can’t imagine my life without them here all of the time. The idea of a quiet house just makes me want to cry, and I worry what will I do? “Trust. I”ve got them now.” That is what I will do. One of the things I’ve learned in AA and my one year of sobriety is that 99% of the things I fear and worry about never happen. So this is where the trust comes in, to trust God and not focus on my crazy fears. I have no idea what my life will be like, so I’m not going to fault the future. He has a plan for us, and we just have to take care of ourselves and stay healthy so we can see the plan. Thank you for your beautiful words today!

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  5. Oh Karen, you are so welcome. It was not until I was half way through writing the piece that I understood that God was telling me to trust Him with my girls (although, of course, I know I SHOULD do that ALL the time, right?) So, writing this really helped me and I knew I wasn’t the only one out there feeling bereft about the future. Thank you for sharing this with me – and for reminding me that 99% of the things we worry about never even happen. I needed that reminder!

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  6. What a beautiful post! I love your definition of normal. I relate to your identity crisis even though my kiddos are young. I feel like I’ve only thought ahead to the first 5 years and expect some big change when they start school. Like I have to figure out who I am by then. I guess that feeling never goes away. Much love to you!

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