D had his last day of first grade yesterday.
He is officially a second grader.
I took these photos on his first and last day of school and I see such a huge difference!
Our big second grader will always be my baby, but I see his little-ness slip away a little more each day. I’m so proud of the boy he’s growing into. He’s such an amazing big brother and son. He lights up rooms with his smile and excitement for life.
He amazes me.
As I sit here, the light breeze outside carries scents in through the back screen door that bring back memories from springs long past. It wasn’t that long ago that I was waking up with cuddles from my little 1 year old. He would wake up early and I would pull him into bed with me in the morning and we’d sleep in until about 9AM. Sometimes we’d join in on group playdates or go to Gymoboree Play & Music, but most days were pretty quietly spent just hanging out together at home, going for walks, or journeying to the farmers market. I didn’t have too many nearby mommy friends in those days and we were a team.
Those are the moments I remember more than anything and, yet, I also know I was a big ball of stress for most of his first and second years of life. I spent too much time looking at my phone and on my computer worrying about what other moms were doing.
Look! He used to be so tiny and now he’s almost to my shoulders! He’s going to tower over me one day, isn’t he?
What no one knows about these beach photos is, in the everyday, I was kind of a mess. I had and still have to remind myself to breathe. And back then, I was a rookie. Deep steady breaths save me from my own tantrums, which still overtake me
occasionally all too frequently. Everyday I have to choose to keep things in perspective and try to enjoy their unique little personalities even when they’re unwavering in their determination to oppose me. And let me tell you, when I’m trying to accomplish anything and my focus isn’t 100% on them, I may as well be at war.
Want to know something about those beach photos from when D turned 1 that I’ve never really shared?
Let’s set the stage:
Those images were taken by the very talented wedding photographer (Christine Olson) when one of my best friends in the whole world married the love of her life at a destination wedding in Jamaica. This session was an incredible wedding party gift. They were also our first family photos and ignited in me a deeper love for photography.
All the pictures from that trip would suggest a simple joy and, honestly, that’s what I see when I look at them. I’m tempted to get down on myself and the lack of energy and patience I tend to exhibit in the day to day.
The story I haven’t told, which should probably be documented is: to get to Jamaica, we left our Silver Spring apartment around 5AM. I felt sick to my stomach when we left and thought I had eaten something bad the night before. I threw up on the way to the airport and managed to settle my stomach by the time we got there. Though not feeling wonderful that day, I made it through our travel day without any more incidents. By the time we arrived, I was exhausted. And then, as soon as I started to feel better, Andy’s stomach rebelled. A day later Dylan got an ear infection. We were all sleep deprived and weren’t able to join in on everything because we were the only adults in/at the wedding with a small child. So, to say all of these pictures took a LOT of work to get, would be an understatement.
I cherish them because they represent our love and connection, but they do not and really could not capture the reality of the day to day.
When I look back at pictures I remember how as my first, my expectations were so high. I had no idea what to expect and was always worried. Worried I wasn’t doing enough, worried I was doing too much, and really worried about nothing important in the grand scheme of things. I should have just enjoyed the ride.
What I’m slowly realizing, and making every effort to change, is for a long time I put on this immense responsibility, like a heavy winter coat, to raise my kids perfectly. I wore that ridiculous coat daily for a long time, until I couldn’t take the heat anymore. With that coat, I was trying to play God and that is not my job. It’s my job to create a loving and trust based relationship with my children. One that mirrors the relationship God wants with His children.
Hopefully, I can fully embrace this weightless freedom before my second grader is a college graduate.
I pray I can learn to be a child myself and see each day for it’s possibilities so I can enjoy him while he’s still a kid. And, you know, figure out how to cheat time and keep him this age for a little longer.
JoAnn Kaeten says
Beautifully written Erika! You are an exclusive member of a very large group and I’m glad you’re reminding yourself that “He is especially fond of you”. me too ?????? I tried to foster the same…but all those darn questions…hehe!