Earlier this year, when talking about registering Maggie for Kindergarten, someone asked me,“will you be one of those moms that cries on the first day of school?” My immediate reply was “no way; we have half day Kindergarten in our town so I’ll only be dropping her off for a few hours!” Maggie will be going to Kindergarten just as close to home as her preschool, for just as many hours, and with many of the same preschool classmates. So why the tears I thought.
Well, with just over a month until the first day, I get a lump in my throat almost daily thinking about dropping her off that first day. Over the past few months since first thinking about Kindergarten registration, I’ve given it a lot of thought, maybe too much. I think I now know why it is we cry on the first day and can certainly say I’ll be one of those moms crying at drop off come September. If not in front of Maggie, certainly bawling into my coffee cup back home until it’s time for pick up.
I suppose it really hit me when I walked into the school on registration day. Like I said, until then I really wasn’t very emotional about it. Maggie is our oldest. I told my husband “It will be different when it’s the youngest and I know I’ll no longer have someone home with me all day.” But for Maggie we are so proud to be able to to raise a child to the point she is ready to enter school; it is a great feat! On registration day, Maggie was so excited she practically skipped to the front door. She swung it open all by herself and darted down the hallway. As I looked in, and my heart fell into my stomach. The halls looked so long, the school looked huge, and my Maggie looked so tiny. The bright lights overhead, shining down on my little girl who is ready to take on the world.
Sure I was used to Maggie being in school; she started when she was just two and a half. I love the preschool my kids go to. Perhaps what makes me love it so much is it feels like a little place I know every inch of. I’ve been in all the classrooms and have seen all the toys. Most importantly, I know the teachers very well. Before preschool registration I attended the open houses and had been close with many of the other families, whose children also would be attending, so I felt comfortable with her surroundings almost immediately. But with public school, there are so many unknowns.
I was registering Maggie for Kindergarten, and sending her into an unknown place, with unknown teachers and children. Everyone we met was friendly, and smiled at my little girl. They made her feel welcomed. For mom, I felt welcomed, but still nervous.
This new place, I’d send her here everyday. I was trusting this place to keep her safe and educate her. I realized these are two things that have been my job since she was born. Sure she went to preschool, but that seemed so much more like a place to play. This school, this was now where she’d be learning and growing each day, tasks I enjoyed watching as she hit all her milestones. I realized I might not be there the first time she read a full book or wrote out a full sentence. I wasn’t sure I was ready to let someone else watch my baby grow.
I was trusting her to grow a bit without me by her side, and learn not only reading and writing without me, but have life experiences without me by her side.
This past spring we were at the girls’ school science night where everyone brings a science experiment and the families eat a potluck dinner. The girls were sitting with their friends and we were at a table of adults next to them. Mid meal Maggie got up to walk over to me with her dinner. She tripped, fell and her dinner went flying. She looked at me, with her big brown eyes, and I could tell she was nervous and embarrassed. I immediately dropped to the floor before anyone else saw what happened. We scooped the food up and I made her giggle when I showed her pasta landed right into our diaper bag and into one of Tommy’s diapers. I assured her no one saw and asked her why she was walking over to me. She said she decided she wanted to eat dinner with me instead of her friends. We got her a new plate of food and she ate her meal on my lap at my table. We talked about the cool experiments other kids had made and how excited we were for the famous “animal lady” to arrive with live animals to learn about.
That moment when I jumped to the floor to help Maggie it hit me, hard. I knew another reason why I was nervous for her to head to kindergarten and a “big” public school. She’d have moments like this, being nervous and embarrassed, and I wouldn’t be there to dive to her rescue. She’s be on her own, or I could hope and pray she’s find kind, loving friends who might rescue her in my place. But honestly, as a mom, that’s a lot to let go of. A lot of control of protecting your little ones. I thought about that first day of kindergarten that was approaching and would I cry, yes. The more I thought about it, I might cry the first day of school many more times too: when 1st grade approaches and the amount of time she was “out on her own” doubled from a half day to a full day, when she entered a middle school full of teenagers, a college far from home.
For me, the first day tears are for letting so many more unknowns into our lives and having to put so much more faith in our children and that they’ll make the right decisions and be ok. But I’m also excited that my first child will head to kindergarten next month. We’ve raised her for 5 years, eager to learn and ready to explore the world. It’s time to let her go just a bit. And while my mama heart will hurt a bit that first morning, it will also be bursting with pride.