Earlier this month I hung up the world’s smallest uniform skort and stared at it trying not to cry. It’s a size 3 that I dug out of the used uniform bin at school since her older sister’s hand-me-downs were too big. I had no idea they even made uniforms that small! Kids who wear a size 3 shouldn’t be going to kindergarten, right? But the skort fit my youngest perfectly. My youngest is not only smaller than my oldest was at age five, but in my mind she’s still a tiny peanut of a toddler holding my hand and tagging along to drop her older sister off on her first day of kindergarten. Now it’s that toddler’s turn. On the first day of school I stood in front of the kindergarten classroom, gripping her hand and not wanting to let go. She’d loosen her grip and I’d tighten mine. I knew I had to let go. My husband and I kissed her on the check, her hand slipped out of mine, and we watched her bounce into her classroom. And then it was over. The baby stage. The toddler stage. The preschool stage. All over. That chapter of our lives has closed and we’ve moved on to the elementary school stage.
I am the mom of two elementary school kids.
Those were the words I had been waiting to say for years. Those were the words that were supposed to be the sweet sound of freedom to my ears. The light at the end of my early parenting tunnel of colic, diaper blowouts, teething, biting, toddler tantrums, sleepless nights, the monotony of answering, “but why” over and over- all those not-so-great things of the first years of raising a child. Yet the light at the end of my tunnel is here and I’m having a hard time walking through it. I want to run back in towards the beginning. It’s hard to let go because the light at the end of my early parenting tunnel also means the end of plopping my youngest into the shopping cart and singing silly songs while we race through Target, community story times together with bubbles at the end, swinging and laughing while being the only people at the park, snuggling with her for her afternoon nap while listening intently for her to begin to snore the cutest little snore. The end of little kid problems and the beginning of big kid problems. The end of absolute dependence and the beginning of independence.
I went through these emotions when my oldest started kindergarten. They were new for me then. I’m familiar with them now, but with my youngest they feel different. More final. I’d always think to myself, oh well you have one more to go through this with. But after that first day of kindergarten, there are no more. Yet this new chapter will bring so many amazing firsts and proud parent moments. There is so much growth during the elementary school stage and so much to look forward to. She’ll still need me, but in a different way. She won’t need me to “do”. She’ll need me to “be”. To be there for her when she’s frustrated with her school work, proud to read her first book, upset with a friend, or excited to sing in her first school music concert. As I watched her buzz around the school courtyard without me that first morning of school, I knew that she was ready for me to “be”.
It’s taking awhile for me to get used to things. The first day of school, I thought I had forgotten her when I went to school pick up. I’m so used to her being in the back seat groggy from her nap! The other morning, I was stopped behind the bus that we always get stuck behind off after we dropped of her sister at school. I started crying because we were behind “our bus”, and there was no one to chat with while we waited. I’m still surprised when I see her in line with her class shuffling across the crosswalk at pick up. It seems like she doesn’t belong there, but really she does. We’re adjusting and I am “being”. Being there after school with a snack and with my full attention as she tells me about her day. Being there to share in her joy when she shows me her school work. Being there when she melts down from exhaustion and adjusting to a new schedule. Being there to reassure her that we’ll have plenty of time together after school. And being there to see her cute little pig tails swaying as she skips to me at the end of the school day.