I cried, on an off, since May. I really did. I couldn’t even drop Baby Bee off at her last day of school. I didn’t want to be That Mom, openly weeping as I loaded my child into the car for the last preschool pick up.
I cried because Baby Bee is my last baby. There are no more left to rock and nurse and snuggle all day. What would I do, I wondered, without hours of daytime children’s television? I realized that new shows would come and go without my even knowing them because between the hours of 8 and 4 no one really turns the tv on and if they do, it’s to catch up on the sort of shows we can’t watch in the evenings with little eyes and ears around. I cried because I’d been a mom to young children for such a long time. I’d spent 15.5 years of my life with a child at home full time. It was the longest I’d done anything except be married to Big Daddy. It was unsettling. If I wasn’t a full time Stay at Home Mom to little ones, what was I?
I cried because Baby Bee’s challenges worry me. I worry about her ability to be successful at school. I worry about her ability to behave. I worry about her ability to make friends, to settle in and to adjust. I worry about how much down time she always needed, snuggled inside the “nest” I made by laying on my side and drawing up my knees.
I cried because, as I put it to the therapist, I was being promoted, but I’d really REALLY loved my old job and wasn’t really ready to leave it.
I dreaded the first day of school. I plastered a brave smile on my face and told Baby Bee about how amazing kindergarten was going to be. I spent several sessions with my therapist and Baby Bee’s therapist (she sees one weekly for the anxiety that is related to her Autism Spectrum Disorder) on my fears and worries. On the first day of school, I dressed her in her puppy dress, put her hair into her trademark side pony and kissed her goodbye.
I didn’t shed one tear.
I amazed myself. I thought I’d crumple up the minute the bus pulled away and cry until the bus came back. But I didn’t. I think I’d cried myself out, as the tears dripped down my face as Baby Bee would lounge on me before bedtime. Everything I was afraid, didn’t come to pass and it hasn’t, yet, in a whole month of school.
Oh, Baby Bee has had a few issues, but far less than I expected. She still heads out of the door, resolved if not cheerful, without a fuss in the mornings. She looks forwards to riding the bus. She does her homework fairly willingly after a few bumps at the start. She’s earning points, everyday, for things she struggled with the past three years. Things like participation, doing something the first time she was asked and being a good partner. She proudly hung an award she received for good behavior in music class on the fridge.
I can’t cry because there is nothing to cry about. My Baby Bee, so small in so many ways, is growing up anyhow both despite me and because of me.
I’m always going to be afraid of what her Autism will mean for her. I don’t think that will ever go away. A little nagging voice inside my head is always going to worry about the results of that IQ test. A part of me will always wonder, until we get there, if she will be able to live a happy life independently of us. If there will be a job, for her, a spouse and friends to keep her happy.
Baby Bee got a Kindle for her birthday and has been using it to make movies. “I’m gong to make movies and be an animal doctor!” she says with great enthusiasm. And, I hope that’s true.
I was sure I was going to miss having a buddy to run errands with. I was going to miss the banter. I was going to miss loading the lanky little body into the front of the shopping cart and getting kisses as we strolled through the store. But, yesterday, I was at Target for a few things (or a hundred dollars worth, you know the drill). I noticed all the mothers around me. I heard the kids crying as it moved closer to lunch and nap time. I saw the Mom pushing a car full of kids (toddler in the seat, baby in an infant carrier inside the actual cart) while carrying her purchases because the cart was full. I saw the Mom carrying her infant around because she would cry every time she tried to put her in the cart. I remembered those days when that was me with a whiff of nostalgia and realized I was glad that it wasn’t me anymore.
I will always miss the days of small children. Of diapers and small, soft bodies that form to your body in sleep. I will always miss that, but I realized that as the Princess and Littlebit and Baby Bee have grown up, I have to. I’m a mom to big kids now and I’m going to get to have 12 more wonderful years of it.