This time of year, Facebook is full of “back to School” photos. Proud parents posting pictures of kids looking optimistically into the future. The children hold signs stating the grade they’re about to enter. In past years, I would warmly note how my friends’ and long-lost acquaintances’ families were growing. This year, as I got my daily FB fix, the photos stopped me short. I actually held my breath. We were on vacation in Florida that last week of August. Seven whole days of beach and pool with my tiny crew. I was completely oblivious to the back to school rush. This fall, nothing changes for my family. My toddler and baby will keep going to their day care part time and we’ll fill the other days with our typical endeavors: finger paint, farm animals, and play dates. Knowing that our lives will continue on, as is, for the next few years without the pressure of a school calendar or Pinterest worthy grade announcements was a relief I felt viscerally. I looked down at my three- year-old, sun kissed, self-assured, free-spirited. I felt the weight of my baby on my hip. Her needs are simple, and I can meet them. In the golden light that enveloped us, we were secure.
I know all too well that this is temporary. I know that in a few short years my big girl really will be a girl, not a “todd” as I like to call her. She will be in elementary school and with that comes all sorts of growth and hurts. I know that growth is good and the pain that accompanies it makes us stronger but I also know that bullying, mean girls, and a world that has repeatedly shown itself to be misogynistic makes us weaker. I know my daughter will look at other girls and compare herself. There will be cliques to contend with and the complications of female relationships to navigate.
This is only the surface. If as parents we think we are “momming” hard, imagine what are kids are going through. Insane amounts of homework and testing. Team sports, volunteer hours, and for our middle class family, after school jobs. Average no longer gets you into the state school. Her little life will turn into a pressure cooker. I want the golden light, the one that I felt in Florida, to continue to radiate. It came not just from being near the sun but also from my children. Everyone they meet is a friend and it would never occur to them that someone may not like them. They completely lack any self-consciousness. The light comes from their wonder at the world; from their ability to put on a bathing suit and feel only the giddy anticipation of the beach. They trust that everything comes down to unicorns, kitties, and Paw Patrol. I want to bottle this. For them and for me.