Archived Opinion

Roots and wings — an oxymoron made for moms

Roots and wings — an oxymoron made for moms

It must have been a mom who coined the adage “time flies.” I swear it feels like last week when I was a seventh-grade teacher having contractions in the Waynesville Middle School cafeteria and barely making it to the hospital before my water broke.

And now, Case, the little bundle who arrived that day is graduating preschool. When thinking about motherhood as a journey, this Friday will mark the end of an era. When my 5-year old puts on a tiny cap and gown and saunters across the stage during this first of many graduations, I will become the mother of two school-aged children. 

From afar this seems rather insignificant, but as I sit on the edge of it I feel sentimental and admittedly a bit heavy hearted. 

This will be a big change. More for me than him. 

He’s ready. His mind is ready, his body is ready, his social skills are ready. And most importantly, he’s super excited. 

I learned with our older son that major developmental changes happen during kindergarten. They enter the doors as preschoolers and sometime around Christmas, they become full-blown elementary school students who seem ions older than they did in August. 

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Case will no longer bring home art projects with handprints or his name written with wonky and backward letters. Instead, his backpack will hold reading contracts and progress reports. And while my logical brain knows we’re running out of room to store puffy crafts made with macaroni noodles, pipe cleaners and cotton balls, I don’t particularly want to stop receiving them. 

Instead of me picking him up at 1 p.m. and chatting with his teacher about his day, I’ll welcome him off the bus with his older big brother and read a newsletter or a note in his agenda book. 

When our older son started kindergarten three years ago, someone told me time flies even faster once your children start school. This is absolutely true. Recently I looked at my tall, lanky eight-year-old as he jumped off the blocks at swim practice and thought, “Who’s that big boy swimming the butterfly and what happened to my baby?”

I know the same will happen with my little one. Despite working from home and always having more work than time, I’ve tried to shut off every day at 1 p.m. and truly spend time with my boy. I know I’m lucky to be home with him at all. I worked full-time until my older child was 3, and I remember how I longed to be home with him while I was at work. I’ve always felt very grateful to have this time with them during these early years. I work very early in the morning, late at night and during weekends, but it’s totally worth it.

My life always feels slightly out of control. I’m never caught up — much less ahead — with work. For sheer survival, I’ve learned to be a master at multitasking, time chunking and list making. I can’t tell you how many days I’ve left articles or blog posts half-finished, phone calls unreturned and dishes in the sink because I’d rather hang with my preschooler snuggling on the couch, reading books, playing Ninja Turtles, completing puzzles or blowing bubbles on the porch. 

I know these childhood years are fleeting. 

Big moments in the boys’ lives are also hard to manage without my mom by my side. She was the absolute best grandmother. Her children and her grandchildren were her everything. 

Case is the ham of the family. He’s easygoing, light-hearted and skilled at finding the fun in anything. When my mom began to get sicker, our older son could feel the seriousness and gravity of what was happening. Case, on the other hand, was oblivious. 

Through last school year, I still worked part-time at Waynesville Middle School. My mom picked up Case every Tuesday and Thursday and either took him to the library, to get ice cream or home to play. 

As her condition worsened, I told her to stay at her house and rest, but she said picking him up was the absolute highlight of her week. Not only did he cheer her up, but she was proud to help me with childcare and wanted to keep doing it. Even when she clearly wasn’t feeling well, Case apparently didn’t notice and continued to prance around in his undies, dress up as Michelangelo and swing his nunchucks, or on days when her energy was low, bring 10 books to the couch and have her read or look at them by himself while she rested.  

So, these preschool years of his have been special for a number of reasons. Not only are they special for all the traditional reasons, but they’re even more meaningful because they’re the only years my mom had with Case. All his memories of her, cards from her and pictures of her are during these years before age 5. 

He’s such a sweet little boy, and I’m so proud of him. If I can hold it together on Friday, it will be a miracle. As all parents know, the heart can break and swell at the exact same moment. 

Jonas Salk once said, “Good parents give their children both roots and wings.” I’ve worked hard these past five years to help Case grow some solid roots, and now I guess it’s time to help him exercise his budding wings. But man, oh man, it sure is hard to send the youngest bird into the world.

(Susanna Barbee can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)  

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