“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love,” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
I sketched a smiley face on her lunchbox note, snapped a few front porch pictures, then boarded the minivan and drove to school. This, our first day of first grade—and my heart ached at how fast the summer flew.
How does a momma cope?
Two words: Cleaning. Rampage.
All morning long, I tore through a summer’s accumulation of misplaced toys, scattered books, construction paper drawings and markers without caps. I packed up outgrown shoes and swept lost stuffed animals from under beds. I reunited dolls with dollhouses, puzzle pieces with their boxes, and tossed dozens of ponytail holders and hair clips back into the bathroom drawer.
My quest—to reclaim control of my household, now that I’d lost sole control of my child.
When I reached the refrigerator art, however, I froze. For the first moment since classroom drop-off, a smile cracked my focus. These juvenile paintings, crayon sketches and love notes, stuck on top of each other with magnets—they spoke to me. I pulled them down, one by one, savoring every sweet misspelling and watercolor rainbow.
Suddenly, everywhere I turned, I saw visions of summer with my kids. The bead necklaces we strung. The library rewards they earned. Our bucket list, mostly checked off, tacked to the wall with such high hopes in June. Now each pencil-dashed line is a deposit in our treasure chest of family memories.
Exhaling, I placed the crinkled art sheets gently in a keepsake file, closed the flap and said goodbye to summer. Goodbye to lazy freedom. Goodbye to cartwheel-spinning age 6 and Care Bear swimsuit age 3. Until next June, when we’ll all be a little older and a little wiser and never again exactly who we are today.
Yes, it’s all part of growing up, I know. Kids go to school and moms let go. Yet sometimes I think school requires more courage from the parents than the kids. It takes brave faith to pack up the kiddie pool and move on.
When the afternoon pick-up hour arrived at last, I hugged my lanky first-grader and she chattered all the way home, about recess friends and bathroom rules and the flowers her teacher placed on each desk. As soon as we walked in the kitchen door, she tossed her backpack in a corner and ran for the playroom.
“Wow, Mom, you picked up.” She reached for a hula-hoop and started spinning. Little sister skipped to her side and hurled superballs into the air. Within minutes, half the bins I’d so carefully de-cluttered were pulled from their shelves and emptied on the rug.
Seriously?! How rude! I’d spent an entire morning organizing every LEGO and tea party plate, and these kids thought nothing of ripping apart my heartfelt handiwork in seconds flat.
“Girls . . . “ I started to scold them, to remind them to please keep the house tidy now that Mom had the run of our space again. But I stopped short when I heard my three-year-old chirp these words to her big sister.
“We missed you today when you were at school! But now you are home and we can play crawling baby, want to? Want to?”
“Sure!” my six-year-old replied. “You can be the baby and I’ll be the mom, okay?” They held hands and wandered to their room, leaving the toy bins upturned and my heart in my throat.
What was I saying about keeping the house tidy?
All my day’s work unraveled when I realized once again that my home is not defined by its mess. It’s defined by the people who make the mess—and the memories. I love them dearly.
So bring on another school year of routines and homework and afternoon snacks. I’ll make the best of it. Until Christmas break, when another toy purge is in order. And then we’ll start all over again.
But the greatest of these is love.