Monday, August 24, 2015

It's a Bittersweet Symphony, This Life

Back to school time is here! Back to school time is here! It's great, right? I mean, yes, it is great. But also? Bittersweet.

The summer has flown by so quickly and shockingly, here we are at the end of the season and the kids are back in school. Last week, I took the kids on one final hurrah to the Zoo. I mean—I love the zoo. Here in OKC and also back when I was a kid and would go to the Milwaukee County Zoo with my family and cooler full of food and beer (it was a different time).

This time, though, was different. With several local districts already back at school, the number of visitors was low. The weather was mild and lovely. And there were strollers, oh so many strollers. Babies and brigades of mothers surrounding me.

I was wistful... I remember being in that stroller brigade. I remember pushing the stroller when there was just one. Then pushing the stroller with the baby and chasing the toddler. Then chasing them both or dragging them behind me. Usually, it was the three of us, but sometimes, Daddy went with us, too. Or we would bring friends or family from out of town. The place has been the constant.

We've changed. We've all grown. They are accessing life in ways that are new to them. Old to me, but new through their eyes. We don't roll with strollers, goldfish crackers and wipes anymore—now we have inside jokes between us and they carry their own snacks.

The zoo is simple. It's easy. We talk about the things we love. We make up silly songs and stories for the animals (one of my personal favorite activities) and try to visit different exhibits every time we go. We laugh and eat chicken fingers. They play on the playground, ride the train or the carousel and play under the water sprayers. Together, we embrace the last whispers of their childhood together.

The first day of school came & we were all rather relieved, I think. We've spent a lot of time together this summer. Familiarity breeds contempt, even in those who love one another most. The kids were happy to go, to have that independence, more interaction. I was relieved, I'm not gonna lie. But then... then around 2:00, I got sad. I wasn't relieved anymore. I felt alone. I felt confused.

I missed them. Yes, fine, I missed them.

I didn't expect to feel this way. I didn't realize we were at this stage of life so suddenly—I'm not always ready for it. It's time to wrap my head around our new reality, one that's less censored and filled with more discussion on the big, important issues. Living is less complicated, but life is more complicated, if that's possible.

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