by Jen Rouse
The Short Years 
I don’t care what people say. The new year does not begin in January. It begins in September.
I personally may not be walking in stiff, shiny shoes, or writing with a freshly-sharpened Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil, but I feel the newness all the same.
We finished out the summer well, with a backyard campfire and sleeping under the stars. They are at the age, these girls of mine, when this little treat–so small you can hardly call it an adventure–seemed completely marvelous to them. We sat together around our puny little fire, and Evie kept saying over and over, “I love this night.”
We are in the best years now, I think. I feel that way all the time–that every age my girls reach is the best one yet–but I mean it, I really mean it this time. They are 4 and 6 and 8, right smack in the middle of kid-hood. They are up for anything, and they still play with toys, and they create these involved imaginary games with each other that will stretch on to fill an entire afternoon.
They still require hugs and kisses and songs at bedtime. At the same time, they can all put on their own shoes and wipe their own bottoms, and even the baby can use big words like “glide” and “faintly” appropriately in conversation.
|They’re my girls. They’re the greatest.|
Today my sweet Lucy starts first grade. She keeps her thoughts inside, mostly, so it’s hard to tell exactly how she’s feeling. But she seems happy, and not scared. There were no tears when I left her behind this morning. Six and a half hours seems like a long time for a tiny little thing like her to be out and away from me, and not in the care of a relative or a babysitter or anything like that; just one of two dozen other skinny-legged, big-eyed 6-year-olds all making their way through a whole school day for the first time. Will she be exhausted by the end of the day? Will she like what I packed for her first-ever school lunch? Was her outfit too warm for today’s sunny weather, and will she be limp and sweaty by the time I pick her up? These are the things a mother thinks about while the clock ticks down to 3:30.
|Has there ever been a more adorable first-grader?|
Bethie is in third grade, which seems impossible in and of itself. I remember stuff about third grade–details about the dresses my teacher wore and the games we played on the playground and who I had to stand by when we lined up after recess. It seems like the identity I wore throughout my middle-school, teenage, even college years, was starting to form around me in the third grade. Will that be happening for Beth this year? And what will that identity be? It’s a big year, third grade. Luckily, Beth (while not a big girl) has a big heart and a big passion for life and learning that I think will help her along the way.
|Third grade. So grown-up.|
And then there’s this one. She doesn’t have preschool today–it starts tomorrow–and so it’s just her and me, the two of us, all day long. It seems like I should be eating up this quality time (and so much of it!) with my last and littlest, but I must confess: I’m actually wondering how we’re going to make it through.
What do you do with a 4-year-old who suddenly doesn’t have any sisters to play with? Just look at her. Look at those crazy eyes. What am I going to do with her all day long?
|Evie. Not her first day of school. Wanted a picture just the same–and Evie generally gets what she wants.|
No turning back now. New year, here we come.