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The Oldest Mom on the Playground

Photograph by Getty Images

My oldest child may be a junior in college, but my youngest is still in the 4th grade. Fun, right?

What a difference 11 years makes. As my oldest marched in with the rest of the kindergartners, a lump caught in my throat, and I blinked back the tears. When my youngest started kindergarten, all I could think was, “I can’t believe we still have six more years at this school.”

In what feels like a lifetime ago, I was the new mommy on the school playground, dropping off my oldest while balancing a toddler on my hip, pushing an infant in the stroller and monitoring a rambunctious preschooler.

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After our fourth son arrived, my husband and I declared that we were “done.” My mother laughed and laughed. Five years later, I delivered another bouncing baby boy.

What were we thinking?

Well, the truth is we weren’t. If we had been, well, I wouldn’t be writing this article. Now when I drop my youngest off to school, it’s just me. Not a hanger-on in sight. And it’s not so bad.

Sure, I’m easy to spot. While I’ve been known to hide my increasingly visible white hairs with highlights or a hat, my expression is a dead giveaway. Each wrinkle around my eyes represents a fumbled poetry reading, a forgotten lunch, a missed homework assignment, or a birthday party invitation that never came.

No one has delivered a bombshell like, “It’s so nice that you take your grandson to school.” Not yet, anyway.

Self-conscious though I may be, it’s not like I’m leaning on a can or shouting at people to speak up. And, knock on wood, no one has delivered a bombshell like, “It’s so nice that you take your grandson to school.” Not yet, anyway.

You see I was going to write about the downside of being the oldest mom on the school playground, but honestly, I think this dubious honor has more perks than pitfalls.

For starters, I have seen many teachers come and go. I know which are gems and which should consider retirement or a career change. I know which games work best at which class parties. I know which field trips to chaperone and which to steer clear of. And I know the difference between a truly sick child and an overly cautious school nurse.

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While I may have seen my fair share of classroom parties, poetry recitals, book fairs and volunteer luncheons, I am a survivor.

Thankfully, many of my son’s friends are also the youngest in their families. It is with their mothers that I share a special affinity and, on this gang’s last day of elementary school, perhaps a margarita.

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