I am always eager – my husband would say “overeager” – to volunteer for anything. I’ve worked at food banks and picked up litter and planted trees. I’ve done political door-knocking and tutored school kids and washed cars for a couple of fundraisers. I like helping … but also I am not great at saying no when people ask me to do things. 

My biggest weakness, by far, is anything to do with my kids. I was room mom for about eight years straight for one kid or the other – and, briefly, for both at once. I’ve helped coordinate silent auctions and teacher appreciation potlucks. I even served for a year as PTA president. 

Lately, though, I’ve been so busy at work and with my dad that I haven’t had the extra time to help out as much. So when an opportunity to work at a Saturday morning event came up and I found myself with no plans … well, of course I signed up.

Once I arrived, though, I realized I had signed up for an event for the nursery school – and my youngest kid is in middle school. 

It was fine, but it was a pretty staggering reminder that I am no longer a mom of tiny kids. In my head, they’re both still babies, but in reality, I had nothing to contribute to the conversations about teething and tantrums (although my teenager still can throw a pretty epic tantrum) and when to ditch the binky. 

Instead, my current areas of concern are mental health, driver’s ed, curfews, braces, gender expression and identity, and the capricious nature of middle school friendships.

I was, I’ll admit, briefly wistful watching the moms settle their adorable kids, in adorable smocked outfits, on Santa’s lap for an adorable picture. Watching the pregnant mom balancing a plate of beignets on her belly and remembering the thrill of feeling another human kick and wriggle in your midsection. Watching a dad lean down and wipe a smear of chocolate off of his daughter’s face with a spit-moistened thumb. 

But I reminded myself that there are plenty of good things about this stage of life, too – they sleep through the night (and if they don’t, it’s not really my problem as much as it once was), they can make their own snacks, the older one can be left home alone and very soon the younger one will be able to be left alone too.

Ultimately, I have so much more freedom than I used to … and I may actually use some of my free time to do something besides volunteering! (Like watching true crime documentaries while drinking eggnog daiquiris!)