Back to School

It’s all happening before I am ready.

My house has very nearly jumped straight from being full of preschoolers to being full of pre-teens.

The boys who came to me with little faces still full of baby traces now stare into mirrors for hours, fixing their hair over and over again, do a new sulking thing when they are angry, and are somehow a whole head taller than they were when summer began.

My girls, my tiny sweet girls, are so tall and slim and active and strong.  Their adorable sass has shifted into a shocking sass that demands things go the way they want them to, and – unlike the boys – they don’t come back to apologize when they are over it.

But my girls reflect more than my impulsive boys, and the boys who used to never notice me now treat me like a queen… the way Nathan does.  The girls have done the same thing, gone from always wanting to be climbing on me to now always wanting to snuggle with him… the way I always do.

They are watching, and learning, as they always have, but now they are becoming, without me.

We have clung to each other through foster care, through the hard work of bonding via adoption, through emergencies and crisis between my cancer and the baby-who-is-now-a-toddler, and now rejoiced together as we all start to breathe with relief again.

We have, all of us, held our breath for so long!

And now, after the sucker punches of the last five years, suddenly there is an exhale.

It came slowly, and subtly, and I only just realized what was happening today.

It’s a breathing out, a letting go, a normalizing, a settling into safety with a new baseline of love.

Other Mamas hold their babies the day they are born, chase them through toddler-hood, play with them through preschool, and then cry when they go to kindergarten.

We have stumbled into each others’ lives so late, but not too late.

We have bumbled our way through adjusting to a large family, growing from strangers to friends to favorites, and finding our way through individual relationships newly discovered but eternally committed.

We have fallen in love with each other, held on for dear life, and laughed and cried and yelled and apologized and tried again just like any other family.

But together, it seems we have always been together.

The children were in public school, of course, in the beginning.  It wasn’t until Kyrie came, too sick for them to stay in school, that we began homeschooling.  Then we tried again when she was better, and it was lovely until she wasn’t.

People say Nathan and I have sacrificed for these children, and there are days it feels like we have given up everything – because we knew it was worth it.

Nothing we have done, or sacrificed, or any love we have tried to give the children, though, even compares for the love they have for each other.

They are siblings now, and their is a spiritual bond we cannot explain or describe, but that we witness every day.  They squabble like any large sibling set, and argue like all brothers and sisters do, and even hurt each other once in a while (“accidentally”, of course) – and maybe even say mean things sometimes.  But nobody, nobody, nobody else can interfere with any of them without the others noticing, and they protect each other fiercely the way only siblings can.   They have taught each other to love.

And oh!  My love is full for them!  Even while I type this, tears are pouring down my face in an ugly cry, because they are so embedded in my heart.  I hate every moment away from them, and ignore everything else when I can be with them.  I let go of things that used to seem important, and do things I never thought of, all because nothing is more important to me than my relationships with those children.

Those screaming loud children.  Those singing loud children.  Though cackling laughing children.  The ones with the legos left on the floor, the ones who put the books back on the bookshelf upside down, the ones who hide their clean clothes in the dirty clothes hamper, the ones who break their hangers, the ones who break our cleanout pipe by playing Beaver Family, the ones who drop dishes and rip holes in their pants and go through their shoes faster than I can buy them, and the ones who break their glasses faster than I can keep them on their face.

I want nothing more than to spend every moment with those little rug rats.

Except they aren’t babies anymore.

They ride bikes on the side walk for hours.  They draw on their beds, and read on bean bags, and can even cook bits of food without me.  They get dressed on their own, brush their teeth on their own, and fix their own hair.  They even wear deodorant!

They aren’t babies anymore.

And then, and then!  The doctor says they think Kyrie is strong enough, even though she has more surgery coming up, that she is strong enough that maybe they could go back to public school if they want to go.  What?!

Of course they are going to want to go!

I am so delighted for them!

But also I cry, in a Mama kind of way, in a selfish kind of way, because I am so going to miss them!  I have spent everyday with them since finishing chaplaincy, all day long, until going to work in the evenings, and now they will be going back to school.

I was not emotionally prepared for this.

I know it is good.  I know it is right – pending content taught in school, and impact of their various disabilities and what services they receive, and if they maintain functioning and are still happy… this school is going to have to prove itself to this Mama Bear!  Oh, my babies!  I miss them so much already, but I know they are going to be so excited and so happy.  I am afraid for them, and scared for them, and worried for them… but know they have to try, want to try, need to try.

This isn’t premortality.

They are so innocent, and so good, and I love that about their sweet little spirits.

But they are also punks, and they won’t learn to choose the good if we don’t expose them to the choices that await them.

It’s so hard to let go!   It’s so hard to miss them!

But suddenly it is here, time for school, and they get to go again (at least until winter), and they are going to absolutely freak out when we tell them.

I can’t tell them until we find enough backpacks.

Oh, backpacks!  School supplies!  What?

And five sets of homework everyday.  Five!  I will have three third graders and two kindergartners!

Oh, man, you guys.  Kyrie is going to be so mad!   She is not going to be happy about them going to school without her!

But it’s going to be so good for everyone, to leave home and create their own worlds!

That’s the whole point!

Oh, I am melted and so excited and grieving and so thrilled all at once!

I don’t know how we will come up with school supplies or school shirts in such a short amount of time, or keep up with five sets of homework for the first time ever.  

I don’t know if their teachers will know how special they are, or believe in them the way I do.  

I don’t know if they will find friends who are kind and help them choose the right.

I don’t even know if we will make it all year because of Kyrie, and I feel bad we already know we have to pull them out of school in September before her next surgery.

But I know it is their life to lead, and it’s their turn to try again.

And we will keep doing our curriculum on Saturdays, and on days off like holidays or the week in Cincinnati, just in case.  

We will just take it a day at a time, whether the school likes it or not.

I will probably get passive aggressive with teachers who don’t know we have their student times five plus one, and anxious out of my skin about everything being signed and returned back to school, and really not want to know what my child actually eats or does on the playground.

But we can try.

And I can cry now, while they are sleeping, and then be happy tomorrow when they find out and start getting ready as best we can.

Because I will wipe my tears and shake off my growing-up-kids grief and tell you in my most serious mean mom voice with a finger shaking in your face: if I have to spend seven hours filling out five sets of enrollment forms, you can be sure as lobsters that you will march yourself into that school, or else.

Now.  Let’s be happy about it, shall we?

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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