Our daughter graduated from preschool yesterday afternoon. She walked down the aisle in the same sanctuary our son did during his preschool graduation when we were stationed here last time. By pure luck, Clay was able to join me in the pew at the last minute and watch our baby sing and dance with her class for the last time. I’m not one to get overly emotional at milestone events – I see so much beauty in the journey and being able to witness my children grow is something I strive to never take for granted. But I admit that there is a hint of contemplation as we move into this new phase of life – parents of elementary school-aged children.
All that remains of the baby years is neatly packed away in their memory boxes. We no longer worry about bringing a stroller, or an extra change of clothes, or snacks when we head out for our adventure of the day. We eat at restaurants without kid menus and we’re able to Uber with ease. And we watch them from the sidelines as they become part of a team that doesn’t require us as active participants. It’s not that they don’t need us. They do. Just not as much as they did.
As we transition into this new phase, we know that pedestals our children have us on now will only get shorter with each passing year. Soon they will think they know better than us and seemingly forget that we were once young ourselves. There will be slamming of doors, rolling of eyes, and lots of tears. But it will be okay. In fact, it will be better than okay – it will be phenomenal. Don’t get me wrong, it will be hard. But then again, it’s been hard since the beginning.
Clay and I aren’t perfect. I’m sure we will make mistakes as we venture into this new phase. Our children will see us fail, they will see us succeed, and I am hopeful that they will always take comfort in knowing that we are trying our best. We are now parents of elementary school-aged children. Bring. it. on.
Eight years ago today, the little guy entered our world. On the surface Clay and I were ready. We had been married for five years, we had been parents to our dog for almost as long, and we had gone through quite a number of difficult experiences unique to military life. We were seasoned. And like so many before us, we were woefully underprepared for the adventure known as parenthood.
No amount of decorating a nursery or buying diapers in bulk prepares you for the wave of responsibility, fear, and love that overwhelms you the first time you hold your baby in your arms. In the moments after the little guy was born, I was so happy (and not just because it was an easy labor), but only a few pictures exist that showcase a beaming smile on my part. Most of the pictures look similar to the one above – me staring at him with love, confusion, and apprehension.
Clay deployed shortly after Weston’s birth so for the first year of the little guy’s life, it was just me and him. We learned together. It was hard. But we survived. When Clay returned from Afghanistan, the little guy walked up to him at the airport and squealed. Despite the fact that our first year as parents was defined war and separation, we felt seasoned – or at least we felt a little bit more prepared as we ventured into new territory.
We eventually added a little girl to the mix and now here we are – eight years later – feeling like we have the hang of this whole parenting thing. Most days, at least. But a lot sure has changed since our son was first placed into my arms.
So happy birthday to my favorite little guy. Unfortunately, the Army took Clay away again but Weston is resilient. He understands. And that is one of his many amazing qualities. He will forever be our first baby and even though we feel more confident than we did eight years ago, we will continue to go into uncharted territory together. We’re still scared. But at least we’re a little more seasoned.