Snapping a Signpost

Today is back to school for my two oldest children.

Summer’s end is always bittersweet, but they are ready. I am ready. And in a move that is classic Minnesota, even the weather is ready. Our lows this week are in the 40s, our daytime highs are in the mid-70s and it’s nothing but blue skies and sunshine as far as the eye can see.

Because I’m a mom, this morning I made Natalie and Connor stand in back-to-school finery (read: random t-shirts because hey, it isn’t school picture day yet) outside their classroom and smile for the camera.

Natalie obliged, because she’s the responsible oldest and a girl.

Connor? He didn’t oblige. Because he’s second born and a boy.

(I managed to snap this when he thought I was taking a picture of Kieran.)

Pictures on the first morning of school are one of those classic, almost cliché parenting moments. The photos themselves aren’t that great – often grainy due to fluorescents overhead and blurry due to the crazy surrounding us.

But they are necessary, because they aren’t just pictures. They are signposts that mark the passage of time. First grade. Second grade. Third grade. Fourth grade. Even, Lord help me, fifth grade.

Here in Minnesota, school never begins until Labor Day ends. (It’s state law. For real.) But I know many of you sent your kids off weeks ago. I know because I’ve seen the first morning of school pictures on Facebook, on Twitter, on blogs. I’ve seen happy grade schoolers, annoyed middle schoolers, cocky high schoolers. I’ve seen moms who looked relieved that school is beginning again and I’ve seen moms head for their back-to-school mimosa party as soon as the bus departs and I’ve seen moms that couldn’t hold back the tears.

No matter the particular, the mom camaraderie compels me to look at those pictures, every one of them. Because I know underneath the new backpacks and shy smiles are the very heartbeats of the women I call friends.

This growing up thing – it’s wild and exhilarating and completely out of our control. It’s easy for day to day life to obscure the truth – our children are growing up. School pictures force us to take stock of reality. And quite often, reality is a punch in the gut. To see my kids through the lens of my camera, they look so grown up. (Fifth grade! Natalie's last year in the elementary wing!) In my heart, they don't look that old. They still look like preschoolers, excited to go to the library story time and then grocery shopping with me.

Good thing I still have two at home.

There. That's better.

It’s going to be a great year.


  1. Golly, you are making me teary today with your insight, wisdom, and photos. Your lovely writing, especially.

    Great photos of great kids, captured by a wise mom. I hope their year is the best yet and that your time at home with your little ones is special and sane. Hee hee.

    Next week, 5 of the kids will mark a month in school. Already. I wish CO had a similar state law.

  2. Oh this is a good one Kelly. Today I had a few hours with no kids. Four are in regular school, and my fireball Lily is going to a mother's day out that just started today. And then I dropped the baby off at a drop-in care so I could volunteer at school. It was very weird to have them all distributed various places. I think I will not quite know what to think when they are all in real school. I'm not going to wonder about that now though. Instead I will soak up these days, as they are.

  3. I enjoy your blog and your words are always good. Today especially good.

    I honestly am sitting here laughing because no. 1, why choose today to comment, right ?

    Well, what in the WORLD is sitting next to your daughter in that photo ? We all knew you were axe murders right. Please say you think this is funny. IT IS.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    God is good.

  4. @Anonymous: I didn't even think about what else was in the picture. My kids love to play in my kitchen gadget drawer. The item next to Teyla is (wait for it) a garlic press. No way to kill someone using that. (Right?)

  5. You're gonna make me cry again.

    And Michael W. Smith's song "How to Say Good-bye" is running through my head.