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The Invasion

August is around the corner, and with it a welcome return to routine for parents and children alike. But for those parents whose children are now adults, it is a return to memories and what once was.

The invasion starts next week. The time of year when those black and yellow bodies overtake our habitat.

Perhaps I should clarify. I’m not speaking about those helpful little pollinators that go about their day ensuring food survival for the masses. No, I’m talking about…you guessed it…school buses.

Those of you who are parents likely have more than one feeling on the subject. After all, the return of the buses is the harbinger of the school days to come. The return of routine, normalcy. Traffic patterns reemerge. A reminder that fall is on the horizon and then in short order Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-Happy-New-Year!

And with this annual migration causes what forecasters describe as disturbances. Subtle disturbances. And among the parenting front.

Whether your child ever rides a school bus or not, it remains a symbol of the school. And for thirteen years (more or less), school is as much a part of a parent’s life as it is a child’s.

Every stage of being a parent leads to another. Infancy begets toddlers begets school-age and then in a literal flash it is over. The schooling part that is. The parenting part continues on, though it morphs.

Elementary school is a flurry of activity and involvement. Parent/teacher meetings, school events, after-school activities, actively helping with learning and comprehension. You need a planner to maintain your sanity during these formative years.

Middle school…oh the middle school years. When children try and figure out who they are. No, this does not happen in high school. This happens here. And yes, there are still extracurricular activities, but your schedule slows comparatively speaking. You help out with homework occasionally, and only occasionally.

High school, the last four years. By now, those “children” largely know who they are and now they just need to find their tribe. They drift away into their own bubble. Regardless of the state of your relationship, if you want to maintain it, you have to actively work on it. Because let’s face it, at this stage you are not helping with ANY homework, and you (yes you) are so embarrassing to their overall state of mind.

After high school, any number of paths are possible. College, trade school, entering the work force, and even a gap year are all possible.

The years spent in elementary school, middle school, and high school all have their own identities, but they also bring the comfort of routine. And it is the comfort of that routine that lulls you into thinking there will always be another open house, another first day of school, another graduation.

Until one day there isn’t.

The time will come when the school bus no longer comes for your children. You will no longer have any more school enrollments to fill out, or teacher newsletters to read, or school lunches to pay for. And one day, you will walk by that back-to-school section of the store and you will not have a reason to buy anything.

Because your children are no longer children. They are young adults.

Seeing all the dinosaur and racecar bookbags or the bookbags covered in pink and purple sequins will always take you back. It will make you wistful. Painfully, achingly so.

You will be just as proud of your young adults as ever. But the tragedy of being a successful parent is that you will have to let them go. Instead of you making time for them, they make time for you. The schedules, activities, and dinner routines are forever altered.

And instead of looking forward to honor rolls and school dances, you look forward to their promotions, engagements, marriages, and perhaps the birth of their own children.

Every single stage of childhood has been worth it. Every stage has taught me something about my children and made me a better parent. And just when you think the next stage will never be as good as the last…it is. And your heart fills with joy.

But if I’m being honest, the sight of those school buses makes my heart ache. For what once was.

We can never go backwards, only forwards.

There is no reverse.

I suggest getting a window seat; I left a box of tissues for you there.

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