anne_mikolay_120When I see my neighbor driving her kids to school early in the mornings, the reality of my present situation hits home. That's not my world anymore. My youngest graduated high school last June; I no longer have to drive anyone to school, attend back-to-school nights, teachers' conferences, or parents' meetings. I no longer shop the sales in Target for school supplies, buy book sox to cover text books, make lunches for picky eaters, or arrange my days around the school schedule. I need not contend with heavy traffic around the school or hope for a snow day with just as much fervor as my kids. Am I rejoicing at my new freedom? Hardly. Call it “empty nest” syndrome or a middle-age crisis, but I would trade places with my neighbor in a second.

When my sons were little, I chaperoned field trips, attended school performances, made my boys' Halloween costumes for the annual parades, as well as their Colonial Day costumes for the school's celebration of our forefathers. I have a trunk full of hand-crafted items my children gave to me me and well remember my youngest's big smile as he proudly presented me with a bunny made from a milk carton heavily glued with giant cotton balls. Lots of moms have similar memories, I suppose, but when your boys grow into young men and head off to college without looking back, such things suddenly emerge much missed treasures of unimaginable worth.

I will admit, however, I did not recognize such treasures back then. Quite a few came with aggravation. I spent a small fortune on candy for kindergärtners' gingerbread houses, and wasn't too thrilled when I cooked a ton of mashed potatoes for the Thanksgiving feast and the moms in charge forgot to serve them. Trying to find a tri-corner colonial hat for Colonial Day was a pain in the butt, and driving to Burger King in torrential rain to pick up thirty “fun day” lunches was less than thrilling, but I am glad I did it. The best advice I can offer parents with little children starting school is this: put up with the aggravation and get involved. Your interest in your child's school experience will build their healthy attitude toward education and parental input. I helped with my kids' homework, chaperoned the field trips, did crafts with the students, was a reading mom and a class mom. If truth be told, I did it as much for myself as for the boys. I wanted to actively participate in their education. Call me naive, but I like to think my sons' current appreciation for their college education has a bit to do with the foundation their dad and I built for them. 

Seeing my neighbor hurrying her kids into the car in the mornings and the local moms pushing their slow-pokes onto the school bus makes me want to shout: “Slow down! The moment will pass all too soon! Let the kids dally a bit longer! Moms and Dads, just enjoy the ride!”