Raising Richmond: The tracks of my tears

Alternate title: Six songs to help you wallow in sadness over your kid(s) having the nerve to grow up.

So I cried over a lunch box a couple weeks ago.

My son JR and I came across it earlier that day while roaming around TJMaxx, looking for cheap hand towels or a new kitchen rug or something. He gasped a little when he saw it, what with it featuring Spider-man in mid-web-sling on the lid and all. After a quick glance at the price ($4.99, regular retail $8.99, holla!) I heard myself saying, “Well, let’s go ahead and get it. You’ll need one for school anyway.”

My breath caught in my throat as I tossed the lunch box into our cart and steered us toward the checkout line. I tried to hold it together because 1) Who wants to be the crazy lady crying in TJMaxx? and 2) JR was so excited about this legit “big kid” purchase, I didn’t want to ruin his moment by being the aforementioned crazy lady crying in TJMaxx. I did an OK job, I think, although JR did keep bellowing, “WHY ARE YOU SNIFFING SO MUCH?” on our way out to the car.

And then later, after JR was in bed, I properly fell apart as I showed the lunch box to my husband.

A few days prior to the lunch box purchase, we got a letter from Richmond Public Schools confirming JR’s acceptance into the Virginia Preschool Initiative Program. This means come September, he will be in school Monday through Friday in the very same building where he will complete kindergarten through fifth grade. It’s not technically elementary school, but it might as well be.

And I’m thrilled for him! I am! He currently goes to school three days a week and begs us to let him go every day. He loves being around other kids and thrives in the structure of classroom. He’s ready for this. Our family is ready for this. My wallet is ready for this.

My heart, however, is not.

Which is why one minute I was showing my husband a lunch box and the next I was folded up in his arms, dripping tears and snot all over his shirt.

My husband, the astute man that he is, knew the sobs coming from his wife had little to do with our recent purchase and everything to do with the fact that I hate when our son has the nerve to grow up. So he held me as I wallowed in my sadness, blubbering out my fears…

He’s my baby. He’s still so little, and what if someone is mean to him?

It’s all over. He’s just going to be gone. I mean, 8:45 AM – 3:00 PM every day starting now and FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.

How did we get here already?

Then, as good husbands do, he assured me that everything was going to be fine–great even. He also reminded me how important it is for us to set the tone for JR when it comes to preschool. If we’re excited, he’ll be excited; if we (meaning me) cry, he’ll cry, too.

(I hate it when that guy is right.)

Don’t get me wrong though, wallowing will still happen. I’m a big believer in wallowing, and I will wallow when wallowing is warranted. I’m just trying to contain it a bit, for my son’s sake. I mean, while I don’t see anything wrong with expressing to him that I will miss him when he goes to school, he doesn’t need to see me dissolve into a puddle of tears every time we drive past the damn building.

I’ve found that for me the best way to constructively fulfill my need to wallow is to listen to songs that make me cry–usually while I’m in the car or working in the office when no one else is there. I sit, I listen (sometimes repeatedly), I sob, I blow my nose, and then I move on to the next thing. Yes, it’s weird and would probably be somewhat startling to look over and see if you were to pull up next to my car at a stoplight. But it works for me. By taking the time to cry out my sadness, nerves, and fears about this coming transition, I feel better able to celebrate the good things about it. Taking the bitter with the sweet, if you will.

So should you find yourself in need of some good, quality, “Oh, where has the time gone?” wallowing–and judging by my Facebook and Twitter feeds, many of you other parents definitely are–I wanted to offer up some of my go-to, ugly-cry, parent-to-child songs. Some are well-known, others might be more obscure, but they all articulate this whole experience for me. Take a listen, maybe have a cry, and be sure to share your picks in the comments.

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1. Lullaby by The Dixie Chicks

How long do you want to be loved?
Is forever enough, is forever enough?

I’ve been on this weird Dixie Chicks kick lately (don’t judge), so you can imagine my excitement when I rediscovered a song of theirs that fit in with my current season of life.

2. Still Fighting It by Ben Folds

You’re so much like me.
I’m sorry.

Because parenting and growing up are equal parts wonderful and heartbreaking.

3. Hourglass by Mindy Gledhill

Just like you, I was small,
Not that long ago at all.
I wish you all the happiness
That God gives freely if you ask.

A mother singing to her son, wishing good things for him but hoping he doesn’t grow up too fast. So there you go.

4. A Wink and a Smile by Harry Connick, Jr.

Well, you can’t have a dream and cut it to fit
But when I saw you I knew…

A very upbeat song, yes, but one that leaves me all weepy because, damn, I’m going to miss hanging out with my little buddy all the time.

5. Forever Young by Bob Dylan

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others,
And let others do for you.

What we all want for our kids, I think.

6. I Have Never Loved Someone by Brightest Star

You’re ok.

Too many feelings. Cannot discuss. You listen.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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