We did so many things this summer: went on adventures near and far, saw many (but never enough) friends, and, most importantly, made memories and milestones. Em learned to swim underwater, John Sawyer learned to squeak, shriek and demand "Beppa Bee - snork" which is his way of asking to watch his Peppa Pig video. (The animated piglet enthusiastically announces 'I'm Peppa Pig' and then snorts the way we do when we've laughed too hard, and hearing John's version of this in his baby voice is hilarious. But I digress.)
Anyway, it was a summer of firsts in a lot of ways: the first time we went on a sailboat together, the first time we went peach picking with John, the first time we went on the Swan Boats together, the first summer with our new-to-us swingset and new pirate boat in the yard. John Sawyer had his second birthday party, but it was his first party that he didn't share with his sister.
And mostly, I was first in command. Don't get me wrong, my husband is a present parent. But like most teacher-parents, we get used to our summer rhythm as the other parent trots off to work, and we become first in command. I am the one that plans the day, makes the meals, cleans the messes and kisses the boo-boos. I am the one who cuddles the Elmo doll, wraps American Girl in her blanket, and picks the snacks for the road. I am the one who packs the bags, brings the extra diapers, wipes and outfits, and remembers the chargers for the various electronic devices that give me a little peace in the car. I am the one who digs under the carseat for the source of the mysterious scent (once it was an apple slice, once a fried clam. Not kidding.)
Toward the end of the summer, being first was getting taxing. Some days, my calls to my husband increased throughout the day with frequency and frantic undertones. Some days, I couldn't wait to pass the baton when he got home. On those hot summer nights, I would hop in the car, turn up the radio, drive to Target (aka Mom Mecca) and wander the aisles, blissfully alone. Strolling through the store, I could shed the heavy Mommyness of the day, and regain a little of myself. Some days it felt like the summer would never end. Some days, I missed the structure and routine of the fall, and I could feel my hands reaching forward to turn that calendar page.
But it wasn't just the routine of stay-at-home-motherhood that was wearing on me; it was the kids' burgeoning independence. Some days, the kids really pushed their limits. John Sawyer, in an attempt to recreate everything he sees his sister do, went down the slide for the first time, alone. The combination of his wet swimsuit and his chubby little bum made him zoom much faster than either of us anticipated, and he landed a foot from the base of the slide, shocked and crying, reaching his arms to me. Em, in an attempt at newfound confidence, decided to step further into the cold water at Hampton Beach despite my warnings, and a wave knocked her over. She was startled, but stubborn, and kept insisting, "I'm FINE, Mama," even though I could see she was scared. So many little firsts, as they test themselves, and me.
Tonight, my first born and I are wearing matching pajamas with our names on them, right below a giant pink heart. Tonight, Em went to sleep a former kindergartener, and will wake up a first grader. My melancholy, emotional heart is so proud of the little girl she is: sweet, smart, beautiful, brave and curious. I hope her first day is exciting and fun, and that it goes by so fast. So many of her firsts already have, and while I look forward to every one of them, and while I know I have to let my children grow up, I hope they will always reach back for me. And I promise I won't mind not being first.