I can get kind of sarcastic at this time of the year. Here's my not-so-perfect "how-to" for embracing the bittersweet on the eve of the last day of school:
On the eve of the last day of school, make sure to overschedule your final day of freedom. Rather than saving the day for more sacred and soul-fulfilling activities, like a long chunk of time at Anthropologie, a relaxing lunch, and a pedicure with your BFF, make sure that you fill every second with errands and checkups and a haircut until the sacred, drop-everything pick-up time at 3 PM so your kid isn’t (again, Mom?!) the last one at the pickup circle. After all, tomorrow will be filled with end-of-school parties and teacher-gift drop-offs and singing performances and the who knows what else, so you wouldn’t want to actually enjoy this last day of independence and freedom.
On the way to your hair appointment, say out loud, “I LOVE SUMMER. LOVE. SUMMER.” Think about all the reasons why: not having to rush the kids in the morning, sleeping a bit later, making bigger and slower breakfasts if you feel like it, less schedule, more time with the kids. . . . Then recognize the moment that a bit of panic sets in, as you realize that this was your last day of freedom, and how many un-fun activities you’ve filled it with.
Then, let your emotions and a whole different type of panic take over as you realize that tomorrow will be your baby’s last day of kindergarten. Give way to the tears. Let the river flow. First pull over the car.
On the eve of the last day of school, pick up your baby and take him to the “end of year kinder party.” Smile with the other mothers as you all set down your potlucky-things you signed up to bring. Sense the secretly judgey thoughts from at least one other parent in the crowd. Criticism of the “Don’t try so hard” genre and the “Try a little harder” genre: “I can’t believe she just picked up pizza,” or “I can’t believe she spent all that time making all those homemade rolls—she must have too much time on her hands.” “Ugh. So unhealthy,” or “Why does she bother to bring that healthy crap no one eats?” Since you signed up to bring only napkins, you realize that you are being placed firmly in the “Try a little harder” category.
Smile and talk about how you can’t believe how quickly the year has gone, and how much the kids have grown. Eat only carrots with all the other moms, pretending you’re not hungry and that you don't have the DTs just looking at those bite-size brownies. Stick with the carrots because you have just realized that this very party indeed marks the beginning of bathing-suit season.
Plaster on a smile, along with the other mothers, as the kids accidently (except for that one kid you all now hate) squirt you with water-loaded AK47s. Envy the smart parents who left just after the cake. Huddle behind lawn chairs with the other imprisoned parents, captive to the wild, armed children. Protect your cute new summer sandals and your iPhone.
While drying off, bond with other mothers. Share stories about peeing and puking on yourselves in very public places when you were pregnant, and about how your husbands who thought you were so beautiful and hot never imagined these kind of moments (thank God), and laugh and laugh. Realize, though, that it’s not totally funny, and that you’re partially laughing to hide your despair because you all know deep down that your bladder control is still compromised and that sneezing, coughing fits, trampolines, and basically any aerobic activity offers the potential to send you into a humiliating spiral.
And on this eve of the last day of school, eat dinner at Subway because it’s mostly healthy and you’re still a little bit wet from that one kid’s evil water attack, and you can’t bring yourself to cook. Then hurry to your evening mammogram appointment, asking yourself, “What was I thinking scheduling this for tonight?” Console yourself by imagining the whole event as a spa treatment that features a “deep tissue massage of the pectoris.” Almost get there in your mind because of the fountain in the waiting room, the little pink robe, the locker with the bungee bracelet, and the blissful quiet. But fail to get there because of the hum of the machine as it squeezes the bejeebers out of your boobs.
And on the eve of the last day of school, don’t even feel surprised that at 2:17 AM your kindergartener (call him that as many times as possible right now) wakes you because his bed is wet. You are not surprised because the sheets were changed today, and you already know that there’s a 157% likelihood that every single time there are clean sheets on the bed, the pull-ups will leak. (Statistics don’t lie. If there was a “pull-up leakage” betting system at some off-shore casino, you’d be a gazillionaire, just letting the college savings ride on the bet that urine will always soil recently changed sheets.)
After the sheets have been changed, and there’s a fresh pull-up and t-shirt on your sleepy kindergartener, and he says, “Will you climb in with me?” answer with a full-of-delight “Yes” because you know he’ll be a kindergartener for only ONE MORE DAY. So slide in close to him, and listen to him breathe and touch his soft, soft cheek and neck, and don’t even care that your legs from the knee down are not able to fit on the bed and are suspended uncomfortably over the edge because your kindergartener has a “pull-up thigh rash” and feels compelled to sleep with his legs spread into a full-on V-shape.
And on this eve of the last day of school, think about your day, and what’s coming up tomorrow. Tell yourself, “I really need to sleep.” But then think, “I should go write all this down because it’ll be gone by morning.” As you pull out your laptop, wonder whether your neighbors can see your butt while you’re typing in the living room, because even though you’ve already lived in your new house for five months, you still don’t have curtains because you have three kids and you sign up for donating napkins for parties, and if you had time to get curtains, you’d take a freaking nap instead.
And in your last few waking minutes on the eve of the last day of school, as you head to your bedroom, hope you don’t dream about what else you’re forgetting to do for tomorrow. Hope instead to have a great fantasy dream about either Ryan Gosling or taking a nap—either would be thrilling.
Before going to sleep, remember that these days that are so taxing, vanish so fast. Get back up to put a packet of tissues in the pocket of the camera bag that will go to school tomorrow for the singing performance, because your baby is not going to be a kindergartener after tomorrow. But lie back down instead. Assume that you’ll remember the Kleenex in the morning. Rest assured that if you don’t, you can just go to the refreshment table and use some of the napkins that some other slacker mom donated.
Go to sleep knowing that all will be well, because it’s summer, and you’ll soon have much more (sometimes too much) time with your kids, and next June 4th you’ll have a similar kind of exciting, taxing, panicked, sad, bittersweet day on the eve of the last day of school—except hopefully (Please, God!) without the pull-ups.