I realize that I'm one of the lucky mothers who has the ability to send her daughter on the school bus or drive her myself.
I know, too, that I'm fortunate that she is home with me and her baby sister after the two hours of school are over; that we don't need the full-day option because I have to work to pay the bills.
That said, we aren't rich -- we are still paying off student loans and we're in our 30s.
Regardless, I am able to be a stay-at-home mom, and I feel grateful for this every day that I wake up to my two children's faces. Okay -- most days.
Because there are no days off, as a stay-at-home parent. There are no sick days or lunch breaks. Instead, there are miniature people with me everywhere, all day long.
So when school started, I was supposed to be one of the parents on Facebook sharing "Thank God" posts, right? I was supposed to rejoice that I have some time to myself, after I get my oldest on the bus and the baby down for a nap. But I wasn't. Instead, I was in mourning.
I was upset the summer was already over -- like that.
I didn't feel "ready," either, for a new year -- where my children just keep growing up, and forcing me to learn how to let them go.
My oldest turned five in August. I was fine with "five."
However, when the big yellow bus -- that she is taking to school because she wants to and not because she has too -- pulled up at the edge of our long, country driveway, I stifled sobs and waved with a plastered smile on my face as she waved from the other side of a window, for our first time ever.
I waved and kissed the top of the baby's head, in the baby carrier strapped to my thumping breast, and I will admit to wondering what the line of stopped cars thought because, the instant her joyful, little face had disappeared from view, my face and heart crumpled into anguish, as I walked back up the sloping, hilly sidewalk to our front door.
And I was happy -- for her; I think the only time in my life that I actually enjoyed riding the bus was as a five-year-old. This is an experience I want for her to have, but I had to admit that it had heartbroken me.
Because, as that school bus pulled away, I saw more than a five year old waving at me.
I saw how she would suddenly be 15, and her baby sister would be grown too. Perhaps she'd be pulling away in another teenager's car -- I saw so many "firsts" that we have yet to experience.
The things that scare me the most aren't her riding in a car. The things that haunt me are the people in the car who might break her heart -- it's the imminent loss of her innocent child-spirit that I'm most frightened of, but each time my brain goes here, I tell myself a few things.
1. My experience is not hers.
She is an entirely separate human animal from me, and she will not have the same occurrences in life, nor the same reactions to them that I would and did. Yes, we are both women, but we are absolutely different people.
I remind myself that it's not empathy -- or love -- to look at her life experiences through the scope of my own thoughts and feelings.
So, with every fiber of my mother-heart -- I try to witness her. I try to observe her and her life through her own lenses -- and then let her live it on her own terms too.
(She's five. This is a work in progress.)
2. I find gratitude.
I find gratitude for, like I stated earlier, the simple reality that I can stand at the edge of the driveway and wave to her. I find gratitude in knowing that she's social enough to choose taking the bus this year.
And, reader, our gratitude will not look the same, because you and I -- and our children -- are not the same, but I can guarantee this: finding thanks where we can helps.
3. I stay present.
I suck at this. (It's why I practice yoga.)
Still, when my mind revolves around a fear of what could be or what has been, I stop myself -- I actually stop myself, often physically; I stop myself as I'm walking or talking -- and I take in a deep breath and I choose to stay present.
Mindfulness is typically a choice.
And the school bus has pulled up at the edge of our country driveway a few times since that first initial heartbreak of mine.
I've cried randomly at its arrival or its leaving.
What is not random is this: when we have children that we love like our hearts are outside of our bodies, we will get hurt -- they will get hurt -- but that's okay.
It doesn't have to feel good, because life is not 100 percent happy, 100 percent of the time.
But, I inhale and stop writing for a minute.
I find gratitude for the children I can hear playing in the adjoining room, with my husband this morning as I work. And I secret away for later, when I need another reminder (because I will), that by being true to my feelings and fears and joys, that I'm giving my daughters permission to do these same things within their lives.
Because children grow up, whether we like it or not, and I am a better mother by allowing them to do healthy things that scare me, like take the bus.