Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Show & Tell: Back to school time

When you are childless-not-by-choice, there are certain times of the year that can be more painful than others. Holidays, certainly. Christmas. Easter. Halloween.

Labour Day is not a holiday that, at first glance, you'd associate with children. Until you remember that, in Ontario, at least, Labour Day marks the end of summer and the last day before the kids head back to school.

Since 2002, for us, Labour Day weekend has meant dh's cousins' annual barbecue. When dh was a kid, all his aunts, uncles & cousins lived within a quick walk or bike ride of each other, and we saw them often when we were first married & living in the city. Over the past 20+ years, of course, almost everyone has gotten married, bought houses, spread out across the metropolitan area, & gotten busy with their kids.

To ensure we all get to see each other at least once a year for a good visit, aside from the occasional wedding, funeral or first birthday party, the annual cousins' barbecue was instituted. Everyone takes turns hosting. This year, we all chipped in & had the food catered; in previous years, everyone was assigned to bring something (which usually wound up being way too much food, no matter how much we tried to pare the food list down) & the hosts provided the setup & drinks.

In general, it's a good time. Some years have been better or worse than others, depending on what's going on with me and with others (how many new babies make an appearance, etc.). Almost every year, we gather together the kids -- the next generation -- for a group photo. And of course, every year, as I look through my camera lens, I think about the little girl who's missing -- right between one cousin who is exactly six months older than she would have been, and another who is exactly six months younger. (Fortunately for me, both are boys.)

And of course, every year, "back to school" is a major subject of conversation. Not just because everyone's kids are going back to school, either: two of dh's cousins are teachers, one works at a school for the school board, and one works part-time at her daughters' old grade school. As I have joked in the past to my childless friends, not only do I get to hear about their kids, I get to hear about everyone else's too.

I had a hard time the year I realized Katie would have been starting junior kindergarten (they call it "nursery school" where I come from). Somehow, though, the hardest year was September 2004, when she would have been starting Grade 1. I was having a tough time facing all the back-to-school shopping flyers and signs at the mall. Six Months Older was also starting Grade 1, & at the family BBQ that year, everyone was fussing over him, asking him whether he was excited & saying what a big boy he was now, etc. (while I stared at my plate & wished for a hole to open up & drop me through). That was pretty brutal.

One day on my lunch hour, I was at a card shop at the Eaton Centre. I was looking at the Boyds Bears display, as I collect Boyds Bears figurines -- not obsessively, but dh & I have given figurines to each other as presents over the years on special occasions. He gave me a Boyds Bears statue of a pregnant Mama Bear for the Mother's Day when I was pregnant, which I used to illustrate a blog post about Mother's Day.

And there in the display case was the perfect way for me to mark this milestone occasion: "Bailey: Off to School." Fighting back tears, I hailed a sales clerk & asked her to unlock the case & box it up for me.

It now sits on top of my armoire in the bedroom, along with two Classic Pooh music boxes (one of which I posted about before), a framed photo of me, dh & my mother with Katie, and a couple of other Katie-related mementos.

Katie would be going into Grade 6 this year. Grade 6!!! She'd be 11 years old in November. She'd be starting junior high next year, for crying out loud. How could that be possible??

To see what others are showing & telling this week, visit the master list at Stirrup Queens.


  1. This post made me examine just one more aspect of being childless-not-by-choice--the entire feeling of this time of year.

  2. Sometimes this road less travelled is extremely hard because there are no foot steps to follow. I am glad you write, so the others who have to take this road know how it is for others who have been there. Thank you.

  3. I remember thinking once when I was in highschool that even tho you graduate, you never escape that pattern of the year.

    I'm sorry that this time of year is just another reminder for you. Your bear is a perfect keepsake for your girl.

  4. My heart broke for you while reading this post. I get upset this time of year seeing all the little ones going to school and knowing we don't have that, however, I know it must be so much harder for you. I've never felt my child growing inside of me and never held him/her in my arms. Please know you are in my thoughts.

  5. This is incredibly hard.

    To be remembering every milestone of precious Katie vicariously....

    Peace and Strength.

  6. My Show & Tell is a polar opposite of yours as it is showing my son going to 5th Grade.

    Your post has made me pause and think of what could have been, should have been for many of my friends (IRL and over the internet).

    I love your Bailey bear.

    Today I will pause and remember your daughter.

  7. I've been struggling, too, as the years pass. It is hard to believe that she won't, still, be coming to me.

    Thank you for sharing. I'm sorry for your pain, but it does help to know others are struggling in a similar manner.

  8. Oh Loribeth, I can't even imagine how hard these milestone moments must be. Your Bailey Bear is a wonderful reminder of what could have been.

  9. I think it's wonderful that, as hard as it must be, you're embracing Katie's would-have-beens.

  10. What a special post. You are right - there are so many holidays that many people wouldn't recognize as difficult for childless-not-by-choice parents.

    A beautiful tribute to Katie.

  11. I know what you mean, being childless not by choice at this time of the year is hard, seeing all the little ones getting ready for their big days at school. its a window into a world where I don't have membership and that hurts.