The First Day
Updated: Sep 3, 2019
It’s a moment that I’ve known was coming. A moment I felt completely unprepared for. I've thought about this day. I've known that it would be hard, that I would be a wreck. It's the start of a new chapter of our lives, a clear statement that my little boy isn’t so little anymore.
The first day of kindergarten.
He was ready. I knew he was ready. Though he displayed some anxiousness in the weeks leading up to school, with each event and each time he had a chance to see the school, he felt a little more comfortable. Part of me started adjusting alongside him, getting excited about the things he would learn and the ways he would grow. The other part of me longed to freeze time.
I thought back to May, when his PreK class had marched down the aisle in their tiny blue caps and gowns, and stood on the stage, ready to take on a new challenge. They were leaving their tiny preschool cocoon and getting ready to fly into the big world, scattering to different schools and new places. They sang adorable songs and we heard what they wanted to be when they grew up. I thought that it seemed impossibly far away right now, but it wouldn’t be long before those tiny caps and gowns were exchanged for high school sized caps and gowns, and I’d be getting ready to send him out into an even bigger world.
I imagine my feelings that day might be similar--proud of how much he has grown, disbelief that he is so big. Tears stinging my eyes I think about how much less he'll need me in this next stage, as I learn to let go a little more. I'll think once again: "but wasn't he a baby just yesterday? Wasn't he just born?"
As he posed with his back to school chalkboard on the “practice” day, his first days of preschool flashed before my eyes, an adorable curly haired toddler in the cutest madras overalls. And then, that little face turned into the five year old in front of me, no traces of baby left. The thought that before I knew it, I’d be watching him drive to school instead of driving him to school had me blinking back tears.
As we snapped photos and loaded up the car, I did my best to hold the tears back. I tried to remember that he was ready. We had gone to Popsicles on the Playground and the Family Picnic, he had already made a new friend. He'd been excited to pick out a first day of school outfit and to help pack his lunch. We'd checked out all kinds of books from the library about kindergarten, and attended the Kickoff to Kindergarten at the children's museum.
I know that as a parent my job is to raise a child that turns into a responsible, independent, caring and compassionate adult. I know that the parenting decisions I make have to be for the long term, that I can’t give in to what might be easiest or make my kids happy all the time, because while that may seem easier in the short term, it’s not giving them the skills they need for the future. I know that sending him out into the world to find his way, to learn new things, and to grow into his own person is part of this process. I know that in a few weeks or months we will both have adjusted to the new routine of kindergarten.
So on this first day, I tried to enjoy his excitement. I made him the pancake breakfast he asked for and talked about what he thought he would do at school. I took a lot of pictures, and I smiled as he high-fived the principal on the way in. I helped him find a place to hang his bookbag, and I pointed out the blocks center. I gave him a big hug goodbye, and my voice only cracked a little when I told him "Have a great day, I love you".
My husband and I walked back towards the car with our younger kids, and then I sobbed. Would he have a good day? Would he be safe? Would he make friends? I knew he was ready.. but I wasn't. We've had such fun adventures this summer, and now he'll be spending all day apart from me. One step closer to growing up.
Babies don't keep, the saying goes. They turn into toddlers, and those toddlers turn into preschoolers, and those preschoolers march on in to their first day of kindergarten. The "firsts" keep coming, and the babies keep growing, and before you know it, the eight pound, two ounce baby placed on your chest on a Sunday afternoon has turned into a kindergartner, and somehow you've blinked and gone from a brand new mom, unsure of everything, to the mom of an elementary schooler.