Not Going “Back”

not going back

It happened just a few weeks ago.

I was wasting time, walking around Target, looking for the hidden clearance corners.  My husband says I can “sniff them out” from the moment I walk in a store. I find the thought of finding a great “deal” exhilarating and I had an hour to spare, so I was on the hunt for  those bright orange stickers .

As I made my way toward the back of the store, I suddenly caught the sight of a large, gleaming sign. With its “happy” declaration staring me down, I suddenly felt a strange sensation creep into the pit of my stomach. The sign taunted and teased as it stood tall from its perch, like a naughty school boy who had caught me unprepared for the punch he was about to throw.

“Back to School”

That was all it said, but I knew what it really meant.

It was something that used to have me scrambling to collect school supply lists and finding the best deal on backpacks.  My kids and I would argue over which binder size was required and whether or not we could get away with the cheaper calculator. It had me digging out last years blue jeans from the bottom of my son’s closet and hoping that he hadn’t grown another two inches.  We would rush to stores, struggling with how many outfits we really needed to buy and which shoes would be “gym appropriate”.

Our daughter would be on the hunt for the perfect “first day” outfit and I would be anxious to get up to the school to see the “teacher list”.  The open house at the high school will bring even more anxiety as we helped our kids navigate the “school map” and memorize their locker combinations. Then would come the evening when we would set the alarms, pack the lunches, lay out the new clothing and prepare for the biggest day of the year.

As I stood, facing that cheerful, bold sign, a new reality hit me.

We’re done.

Our youngest graduated just a few months ago and “back to school” was no longer a part of our family vocabulary.  From here on out, the preparation, the shopping, the stress, would be an option for our kids. They could choose what school and what direction they wanted to go and the options were wide open.

My how those years flew by.

I was relieved that I no longer had to join in the rush to collect the glossy binders and crisp packs of paper, but a small part of me was also, honestly, a little scared.

Did we set them up for successs? Have we done all we could do to encourage them to live their lives boldly, in faith and confident in who they are? Did I do enough?

Though my kids don’t need my hand to cross the street or a reminder to do their homework, deep down, I hope they will always need me.  “Back to School” may not be relevant to our family anymore, but we are now entering a new stage of life and I am excited to see my adult kids take those steps out on their own. Its a new kind of uncertainty, but one I am learning to embrace.

As I walked out of Target, the stomach ache subsided and I felt warm, strangely comforting, emotions flood in. From now on, I would watch from the sidelines, cheering them on.  I made a silent promise, one that I have continued to make since before I heard their first cry entering the world.

When I am needed, even just for a moment,

I will always be here.