Reflections on the first day of school

Another milestone this week. As many parents are sending their kids off for a new school year I am really no different. I’ve been watching the “college drop off” posts accumulate in my newsfeed for a couple weeks now and they’re being followed by those of the K through 12 variety.

For us this year, the “first day of school” is Tuesday, but there is no college drop off day. As I alluded in this blog last week, I was the one moving. My daughter is staying in the Chicago Lakeview East apartment I called home for the last 14 months. She is joined by one of her former suite-mates from last year who will be subletting the second bedroom.

It was a mere 20 years ago this week that I first found out I was pregnant with her. From that moment, we’ve been one (whether she realizes it – or likes it – or not). Aside from her time away at college last year, her “real” bedroom has always been under the same roof as mine. It seems fitting in some ways that this change would occur at the point of this “20th anniversary” – although 20 years seems so suddenly short.

Until she was 14, I was a full-time working mom. I lost my job between my cancer diagnosis and her father’s death 5 years ago. It turned out to be a good thing. Between insurance money and some consulting and coaching gigs I was able to keep us afloat and be closer to home. I came to realize that being close and available during her teen years was perhaps way more important than it could have been at any other time.

In the last five years – spending so much time together, being there for one another, and considering what we’d been through together – we became very close. In some respects, we filled for each other a void her father left. In spite of what was wrong with our marriage, he was was my friend, and the person I relied on to keep me company when I was feeling lazy – not working, not running. And of course, he was always there for her.

She and I have binged-watched a whole host of shows, attended concerts, stayed up late telling stories, and had lots of fun baking and eating a lot of food that doesn’t fit into my training meal plan. And that was just this summer! The entire time I was acutely aware of the passage of time. Another minute, another hour, another day closer to a time when we’d no longer be under the same roof.

Time changes the circumstances, but not the people. I know I will continue to get a flurry of text messages with questions about stuff she’d prefer not to Google, or to tell me that I am falling behind on the current Netflix series, sending pictures of the cat so I don’t forget how cute he is, or to just say hello or goodnight. And that I will be doing the same. I am comforted in knowing that that she might just miss me as much as I miss her, but more so in knowing that I have done the best job I could possibly have done as a parent for the last 20 years.

The first day of school this year will be a celebration of all that we have achieved and the exciting adventures ahead for both of us – some that will take us far from one another creating stories we can share, but more that will bring us together.

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This week. Another year. Another adventure. Wildwood, New Jersey. August, 2010.

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