The last two weeks as a mom to a newly minted 1st grader have been a sweet, thick haze of delicious moments and utter chaos. My brain has been abuzz with the fullness of managing a new schedule—finding space for school days, homeschool days, and all the in-between of maintaining a home, preparing meals, and mothering two children still in the delicious stage of childhood before curriculum.
I can’t lament that Seb is now beyond those years, and entering the structure of classical education, just as I can’t keep him from growing an inch in his sleep, or constrain his toes to last months shoes. I’ve been watching him closely, and he’s been giving me the signs that he’s ready to start the years-long journey of quieting his body for short spurts in order to make room for the leaps of growth for which his brain is ready. I treasure the season of childhood for him, and am seeking to protect it, to not let busyness settle in, or restrict him to sitting, two legs deadly still and dangling at attention. For three days each week he gets to be a school kid, with a lunch I pack with a peanut butter, love and jelly sandwich. We deliver him to his classroom door, and watch him before we leave, sitting sweetly at a table sized just for him, eager to be a part of something bigger than himself. As we leave, Bruno asks, “Does your mama get to come with you to Pre-K?” He’s getting ready, too.
At home Cody plays with the two younger ones for a couple hours while I catch up on cleaning, start a load of laundry, and drink coffee for a moment without the worry of a chubby fist diving eagerly into my cup of magical liquid. Does he think there’s a treasure sitting at the bottom, like the Lost City of Atlantis? The day passes, still chock full of little needs, but different. There’s a space we’re unaccustomed to, sweet in it's own way.
Pick-up is eagerly anticipated by us all as we fumble into the car and take a breath. We get our Sebby back again. As we wait at the door, we are expecting to see Seb, but King Narmer greets us instead. Ah yes, now we recognize his familiar checkerboard smile and golden head under the craft-paper crown. Bruno slings Seb’s lunch bag over his shoulder, helpful little brud, as Cosmas kicks and flaps his arms and beams down at his biggest brother.
We settle in at home, as if the weekend is ahead of us. Tomorrow is a home day. Seb changes out of his school clothes and unloads his lunch boxes. Little dish-washer standing at the sink in his undies, fully at home in this familiar, safe space.
After the boys drift off to sleep that night, I begin the rhythm of going through Seb’s take-home folder (the traveling mailbox between his teacher and myself) and scanning the next days’ checklist. I fetch my stack of books and set out his work on the table, readying our home for a fresh start around 7:30 the next morning. I nudge Seb; his sleepy face glows. “Just a few more minutes, mom?” Okay, a few more minutes, but I’m eager to start the day before the whole house is astir.
We start with the assigned bible lesson as he slowly unfurls his sleep-weighted psyche with a coloring page. Oats and almond milk with raw honey and cinnamon break the fast and fuel his belly and brain. I lead us through morning prayer before commencing the work of the day.
“Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Handwriting, memory work, history with map coloring and discussions of the ancient world, number bonds, science, reading, spelling and phonics all fill the spaces of our day. Questions asked and answered, baby nursed, telling Bruno “an ‘M’ is two mountains next to each other.” He is secretly writing me a note.
Mid-morning we say enough is enough. We hurriedly shoe ourselves with the frenzy of movement-craved bodies and run to the car. It’s a morning at the children’s museum or the library or the park, where we brush off the tension of a full and structured few hours. This is what I wanted, space for my 7-year-old to still be a child—to run and dream and simply be for a few hours in the morning. Who says education only happens at a desk? The growth of a human soul, mind and body is complex.
We return to our little apartment for lunch, for throwing off our shoes and settling into the last few school tasks of the day. Cosmas will nap for a bit, we are hopeful, and then we read together without the pages being attacked with glee and taste-tested. One of these pages must be berry flavored, or something. Cody steps through the door mid afternoon, and the second installment of unfettered childhood begins. Playing ball in the end-of-summer heat, riding bikes, or playing at the playground. Mama rests as one only rests after the fullness of a day of growth and play and the reward of a list full of checks. The apartment is quiet, and my brain tries to follow suit. Dinner is prepared, and the table is cleared.
Tomorrow’s lunch is made, the sandwich spread and sliced, each little container is poured into with the fullness of motherhood disguised as yogurt, almonds, and carrots.