My last baby just started school and it’s made me realise what really matters

Kristen Toovey with her kids

It hits me just as his little sun-kissed legs walk up the stairs to his classroom, after the last distracted wave and ‘bye mum!’ His little head bobbing, the big school bag with the carefully selected Darth Vadar design swinging by his side.

My last baby is at school.

It felt like each ovary exploded like the New Year’s fireworks, releasing a million emotions, making my knees weak and my eyes water.

Being a parent is so complex

For every positive, proud moment like this, there are several ‘my baby is all grown up!’ pangs that pop up when you least expect and rip your heart out. 

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”

This quote by writer Elizabeth Stone is never more relevant than on this day.

The passage of time

My little kids are turning into big kids; they are becoming independent and needing me less, which is wonderful. I also have less control over who influences them, who hurts them, who lets them down. And this is real life. And I have to let go.

Then there will be high school, relationships and careers, overseas trips, grandchildren — if I’m lucky. There will be sadness, there may be illness and loss too.  The burden of this is overwhelming.

Learning to let go

Kate Langbroek spoke so beautifully about letting her kids go on the Netflix show The Agony Of Life: Family. She talks about how children are like boats, and we put those little boats in the ocean. And how you set your little ships to sail and you hope the currents will be kind to them … but you just don’t know. That very thought hits me as I stand here in the playground, which is emptying of kids, parents and teachers.

This same gut punch happened, to lesser extent, when I used my last nappy, threw out the last tin of formula and gave away my last Bonds Wondersuit. But this is a big one. I know a lot of families that have two older kids and one roughly six years younger. I get it now. The urge to make another baby is strong.

What now? More babies?

Having another baby may mean I could postpone some hard truths. My kids are getting older. And that means I’m getting older. And if I’m getting older, I better get on with making my plans, dreams and bucket list happen. There is so much I want to do and this new chapter is the perfect time to start, if I can ignore my emotional ovaries calling to me, begging me to go for round three.

I look around and wonder who else is having a mini playground breakdown. Emotions are funny things; they hit you like a bus just when you feel like you’re calm and in control. 

The first morning of kindy had started with the usual stuff. A drink bottle opening in my daughter’s school bag, a broken shoe and a lumpy ponytail that just wouldn’t do. For my son, I was concerned he would call a new classmate ‘a f*&%ing idiot’, his new favourite insult. Or maybe rub his bottom on people or yell ‘penis!’ out in class, which I was pretty sure wouldn’t fly. 

Now here I am, alone and contemplating my life as it rushes ahead without me being able to slow it down, take stock and regroup.

But then I made a choice … 

So I wipe my leaky eyes and make a pact with myself. This year is going to be amazing. I don’t want to waste time being cranky at dumb stuff like bad traffic, and then go home and take it out on the kids. I want us to make memories and kick goals. I want holidays, spontaneity, the flexibility to just stop and enjoy these incredible little people who give me so much.

We will drive to the beach and swim in a rock pool on a hot night if we want to. We will wallpaper the house in flamingoes on a whim. We will lie in bed together and sleep late and read books on rainy mornings and throw away my to do list.

This year is about kindness, patience, and stopping to smell the roses. To smell my daughter’s perfect sweaty head as she sleeps beside me. To hold my son’s little foot in my hand that will one day be big and hairy and taking him to places that have nothing to do with me.

I don’t want to take them for granted.

They won’t be mine for much longer.

And I watch his little feet climb those big stairs to a brand new world and he turns around and his eyes search for me and find me and he gives me a little wave and a smile from the corner of his mouth and then he is gone.

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