My kids are obsessed with all-things Frozen. They spend hours in their version of Arendelle—building castles, flying helicopters (obviously they take some creative license from the original plot line), and creating magical worlds. Kristoff likes to kick back with a beer (actually a vintage Barbie-sized Coke bottle, but kids know what they see; and in our house, we don’t drink a lot of Coke…), Anna and Elsa constantly get naked and trade boots, Barbie and Ken pull up to visit in their bubble-gum pink camper, and someone usually breaks out in song, shouting “Let it go! Let it go! Let iiiiiittttt gooooooooo! The cold never bothered me anyway!” over, and over, and oooooover again. I marvel at their creativity, their capacity to completely immerse in their imaginative world, and their inability to carry a tune (#SheGetItFromHerMama). I love listening to my girls play (and yes, even sing), and I’ve always had an affinity for the girl-power, friendship-first, you-do-you message the Frozen crew share. Normally, I stop to listen for a few minutes, smile at their cuteness, then move on to tackle the laundry pile, scrub the toilet, or handle some other glamorous task on my to-do list. But the other day, Elsa’s words stopped me dead in my tracks—almost as if she were speaking directly to me.
I was fresh off a weekend of helping to clear out my husband’s childhood home. A lifetime’s worth of memories—a rocking horse, the bike he and his brothers learned to ride without training wheels, old yearbooks, soccer trophies, and the clock that always sat on their mantle—was carried out of the house and sorted into piles to be kept, donated, or unceremoniously tossed in a dumpster. My husband and his siblings saved a few special mementos, but the vast majority of stuff they let go. It was a difficult, and at times emotional, process. But it was also very cathartic; and as the donate and dumpster piles grew bigger, I could literally see a weight being lifted off my husband’s shoulders. After all, the past is in the past (is there anything that Elsa doesn’t know???), and it was time to look toward the future!
Feeling inspired, when we got home I immediately set to work finding stuff around our house we could let go. A task easier said than done. We generally run a pretty tight ship around here because clutter triggers my anxiety (#MessCausesStress), so there’s not a lot of extraneous stuff lying around. But I’d been putting off clearing a space in the playroom for homeschooling, and this was the perfect opportunity; so I got to work. I had just finished vacuuming up the dog hair hiding behind the bookshelf, and was contemplating where to hang our wall-charts, when I heard that old, familiar refrain—”Let it go! Let iiiitttt gooooooooo!” in a sweet, off-key, slightly-squeaky, three-year-old voice floating in from the living room. As I listened and looked around our makeshift homeschool classroom, I had a revelation—I do need to “let it go.” But it’s not stuff that I need to let go; it’s a dream.
Even if you don’t have school-aged kids, you know the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty swirling around the upcoming school year. Do you send your kids to the petri-dish that is elementary school with a pep-talk about face masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing, and just ride it out until they shut-down again? Or do you keep your kids home, cross your fingers you can figure out how to teach them something, and pray you don’t lose your sanity?
Next week, my oldest daughter starts kindergarten. I’ve been anticipating this moment ever since I (tearfully) dropped her at preschool two years ago. I’ve imagined her walking into her kindergarten classroom, looking impossibly small in a sea of potential new friends. Squeezing her hand, choking back my tears as I hug her goodbye, and sobbing in my car the whole way home. Collecting her at the end of the day, desperate to hear about the new friend she played with at recess, the silly song she sang at circle time, and how she struggled to open her lunch box on her own. Watching her throughout the year as she navigated new friendships and developed her confidence in the world outside our home.
Instead, we made the decision to homeschool. So her kindergarten year will look very different than the one I imagined. My little girl will still learn (Fingers crossed. I don’t have a lot of faith in her teacher. I hear she’s a drinker…) to read, write her upper- and lowercase letters, and count to 100. But there will be no new friends at recess, she won’t have the opportunity to eat lunch anywhere else but our kitchen table, and I’ll teach her all the silly songs she’ll sing. And while I feel fortunate to have this extra time with my girls, I’m still coming to grips with the realization (as is the rest of the world), that this year isn’t going to be anything like the romanticized version of kindergarten I’ve played out in my head. So I’ve decided to channel my inner-Elsa, and let it go. Let go of what I wanted for this upcoming year, and instead embrace what is. It may not be the school year we had hoped for, but maybe we’ll make it into something even better.