We have reached a milestone in our house. In about a week, all of our kids will be in school. Our youngest baby will be in Kindergarten. Recently a good friend asked me how I feel about our daughter going to Kindergarten. Would I be the mom who was saying “yahoo” or would I be saying “boo hoo?” Was I sad, was I excited? How was I feeling? My initial response was that I was excited for her. You see, my youngest did two years of preschool because of her late summer September birthday. Because of that, I feel like she is more than ready. After having the conversation with my friend, I took a step back to think about this. There have long been conversations with tearful moms about sending their children to school. Somehow sending your child to Kindergarten seems like a sign of independence and that they do not need us as much anymore. Some parents, myself included, would tell you that you no longer have control of what he or she hears or sees. All families are different and what they allow their children to have access to. Not every family has the same values that we do. It’s all hard.
But somehow, for me, this time is different. If you would have asked me this same question five years ago when my oldest was about to be in K, I would have sobbed just being asked the question. I would have tearfully told you that I was nervous, that I was sad, and that he was just growing up too fast. I would sob just thinking about him going off to school and no longer being considered a little kid. While I still feel some of these things, I guess it does not seem so scary any more. It feels weird to say that. It is almost like anything in life; the unknown is the scary part. Once we experience it, doing it again down the road does not seem so hard. And for us, this is now the third time. Our second missed all of the pomp and circumstance of a Pre-K graduation because it was the Spring of 2020 and we all know what we were doing then. For our youngest, we seem to have different worries than we did with our oldest and even middle. As I reflect on this, I am realizing that not only are our kids different from each other, but we have grown as parents. Every day is a new day to learn something new. Every experience has taught us something and has given us courage to keep going forward even though the unknown is scary.
Another thing that crosses my mind is also that mom guilt. That usually unnecessary guilt that tells us we should be feeling or acting a certain way. I was emotional five years ago with my oldest. Shouldn’t I be that way with my youngest? Yes, I shed tears at her Pre-K graduation. There were almost more tears of gratitude as we said “see you later” to her amazing pre-K teacher who we had for two years. They were also tears of gratitude for all of the growth she has made the last two years. As I said before, it is just different going through it the first time than going through it the last time. While I was a hot mess when my oldest walked across the stage, I felt different this time around.
I have learned over the last ten years that being a parent has a series of moments of letting go. These moments help our kids gain their independence. I remember when my kids sat up for the first time. I remember when they were each done nursing. I remember when they walked for the first time. I remember their first laughs and their first words. I remember those first birthdays. And I remember when they reached the milestone of going off to school. Those moments will be etched on my heart forever. Yes, while this independence is hard to swallow sometimes, it is necessary. If we have done our jobs well, they will have gained this necessary independence and that is ultimately the goal.
I am realizing that we have entered a new parenting phase as well. No longer are the days of diapers and middle of the night feedings. No longer are the days of potty training. We are now getting a full night’s sleep. We have now entered the school-aged phase where our world revolves around school and activities. Professionally, I have also returned to the workforce. All of these changes in our house have been and seem very natural. I remember thinking during the early days with each of our kids that we would never see these days. But in the blink of an eye, we have arrived. We are now the parents of big kids.
With all of this being said, do I feel a little sad about my baby going to Kindergarten? I would be lying if I said no. However, I have found so much to be grateful for. I am grateful for how far she has come and I will feel excitement for her and for what is to come. Whether it is your first baby or your last, change is hard. Allow yourself to feel all of the feelings and know that none of them are wrong. I encourage you to take a step back and marvel at how much your child has grown and also marvel at how much you have grown too. And if you are the mama who feels like you are the “boo hoo mama,” know that it’s okay. You may always be that mama or you may find yourself being that “yahoo mama” down the road. There is so much learning and growing left to do and you get the privilege to have a front row seat to it all.
“All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.”
― Mitch Albom