I Didn’t Realize How Easy I Had It Until My Kids Started Attending Different Schools

For about 14 months, our two children attended the same daycare, a center that’s a 10-minute walk from our house in a New York City suburb. It’s also directly across the street from a train that takes us to Manhattan, where my husband and I both work. We couldn’t have asked for a more convenient location, so after a quick visit to make sure there weren’t giant needles lying around or 12-year-olds running the place, we handed over our hefty deposit—and then our children.

Mornings seemed chaotic once our second-born joined his big brother in attending the center. My husband and I would often breathlessly run the stroller through the door of the building. I’d give my oldest a hug and then remove my shoes to walk my little guy into the baby room, where other infants rolled around on the pristine-ish floor. Then, I’d hurriedly put his bottles—and later, sippy cups and food—into the fridge, sometimes dropping off diapers, wipes and changes of clothes too. At the same time, my husband would run our big guy up the stairs to the pre-K room, maybe hang up his backpack in his cubby if our preschooler didn’t want to do it himself. Occasionally, I’d have to drop off and pick up both boys by myself, in the rain, with no car, while each was having his own hunger- or fatigue-induced tantrum. I’d foolishly let myself think: No one has it harder than me. No one!

You can roll your eyes at me. I do.

The truth was, of course, lots of people have it way harder than me—including me, once my older son graduated from preschool and started kindergarten at a school on the other side of town.

Mornings in our house begin earlier now. They have to. Our 10-minute walk to daycare has become a 10-minute walk in the other direction to elementary school, followed by a 20-minute walk to daycare. On some days, we drive, but have to wake up even earlier to do so successfully. Why? Because the busy train parking lot fills up around 7:30 a.m. And if we miss the last spot, it means driving back home, and adding on a 10-minute walk to the train.

Evenings, somehow, are trickier. Because public school’s after-care program ends at 6 p.m. sharp, and our train pulls in no earlier than 6:02, we’ve enrolled our kindergartener in a private after-care program where he can stay longer…on the other other side of town. It’s a 15-minute walk from the train. Then 15 minutes back to daycare, at which time my husband, hopefully, has retrieved the car from the nether regions of the lot. Then another pickup and a drive home all together. But if I’m on my own without the car, as I was on the first day of school when I worked from home? It was an hour and 10 minutes of walking, followed by a brief bout of crying over not knowing whether I can do this for four more years until my little one starts kindergarten. Even though I knew dropping off and picking up children in separate locations would take longer and require more planning, it didn’t occur to me just how much more difficult it would make our already challenging days.

I know everything is a season with kids. I know that moms with three or more kids have it harder than me. I know that single moms have it harder than all of us. I know that your grandparents probably walked 10 miles in the snow to school without shoes. I know that if this is the biggest parenting challenge I have, I’m not just lucky, I’m #blessed. But damn, if we don’t complain about these things, we don’t know what a seismic change it is until we’re in the thick of it.

My best friend from college is on the other side of this. Her youngest just began kindergarten this week and her first-day-of-school post felt different from the rest. She triumphantly shared, “We officially have two kids on the same pickup and dropoff schedule!”

Last year, I wouldn’t have understood why that was worthy of posting, let alone the exclamation point at the end. This year? I get it. And I eagerly await the day I can post the same, exclamation point and all.

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