Today marks a big day in the life of our family.
It’s the very last day that my dear sister will be in my house watching Everett for me while I work. On Monday morning, my big 2-year-old will embark on a new journey at preschool.
I know that a lot of mothers feel a great deal of sadness on these first-day-of-school milestones. It feels like they’re growing up. It’s a reminder of the babies they once were and never will be again. It’s the beginning of a long and painful process of releasing our precious little ones out into the world to develop their own lives apart from us, and we just want to make sure they are safe and loved.
I think about each of those things, but to be honest I’ve never felt sadness at sending my kids off to school, and I’m not sad about it now. I am so excited for Everett, just as I was so excited for Avery to start kindergarten a few days ago. I love sending my kids off on their next big adventure. It is a discipline and a choice, for sure, to think of it this way, but that is how I want to approach these milestones.
What I am sad about, though, is the thought that my sister will not be taking care of my baby every Tuesday and Thursday anymore.
You see, when Avery was born, I was still working part-time shifts at the hospital. We had an array of babysitters- some we loved dearly and some not as much- but they never seemed to last very long. Their lives were in transition, and it put our lives into transition, too, every time a babysitter moved on.
I knew that I had to show up at work and clock in at 6:59 a.m., no matter what. I didn’t get sick days or paid time off, and we needed the paycheck every month. And I shed so many tears worrying about how we would find yet another person to love on my precious baby when I couldn’t be there. That was absolutely the hardest thing about my first two years as a mother.
When I was pregnant with Everett, I dreaded facing these same obstacles again. I worried that we would again be at the mercy of other people’s life transitions when what I truly desired was stability for my little one.
And I remember the moment so clearly. Avery and I went over to my sister’s apartment to swim in her pool (because obviously the only relief a very pregnant woman with a toddler gets in a Florida summer is to get in the freaking pool). While Avery played tea party on the steps and we lounged against the side, Lindsay told me that she wanted to watch the baby one day a week once I went back to work.
I had never thought of asking her. She has her own business and her own stuff going on. She didn’t need to do it, but she wanted to do it to spend time with the baby.
“I want to be #3,” she said. “You know, you and Michael will be the baby’s favorites, #1 and #2, but Lulu needs to be #3.”
So one day turned into two days a week, and she’s been coming every Tuesday and Thursday for two years.
And I’m pretty sure she surpassed her goal of becoming Everett’s #3.
When he was a baby, he would see Lulu walk into the door and his face would light up. He would pretty much jump into her open arms. I’ve said it a thousand times, but the truth is that if it came down to choosing between myself and my sister, it is pretty much a toss-up for Everett. He loves her exactly like he loves me.
When I say that, people often think that might make me sad, maybe a little jealous that he loves my sister as much as he loves me. I have never felt jealous about that, not in the least. Because that has always been proof to me that he was being loved exactly the same way when I was there as when I wasn’t.
She sang songs to him and cuddled him as long as he would let her. She delighted in each of his milestones just as I did. She shared laughs and first words and first steps on those days she spent with him. And she also managed her share of poopy diapers, which (not-so) secretly made me very satisfied because she never, ever, not once changed Avery’s poopy diapers. I mean, you can’t be #3 if you’ve never cleaned up #2, am I right? It comes with the territory.
I’m pretty sure that in two years, she has never taken a sick day. And my kids have gotten her sick A LOT. She has given Everett the task of modeling her headbands that she makes in her spare time while she watches him, and he still loves a good girl accessory.
She took every monthly milestone picture of him for the first year of his life because I could never get things together enough to manage it. She got Avery interested in sewing because she loves her business and shares her enthusiasm and creativity with my kids.
She has been in it with me for the real thing. When my kids are throwing temper tantrums, when they’ve been too sick to go to school, when they refuse to take naps, when they have a poop explosion that threatens to end the world- she was in it with me. And every mother knows how valuable it is to have someone else in it with them.
I always tell people that the best way to show love to a parent is to love their children well. My children have been loved well these last two years, and so have I. I will be forever grateful.
We love you, Lulu.