My youngest started Kindergarten this year, launching me into the role of mom to two school-aged children. The years of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are now behind me as my evenings fill with extra-curricular activities and homework rather than diapers and snuggles. This milestone also marks the third major transition my family has navigated in the past few months, quickly following our move to a new house and my continued adjustment in a new job. Although the ongoing changes of the past few months have created a season of upheaval for my family, there is something about this transition to Kindergarten that feels so final, even more permanent than a change in address or employment. It is something that we cannot turn back from. The school years have begun.
As I did with my son when he started Kindergarten, I wrote a letter to my daughter to share with her in the future. This post shares the letter in celebration of this milestone. As I worked on this letter, I had a renewed chance to reflect on my parenting journey. The transition to kindergarten is another reminder that parenting can be full of complex and often conflicting emotions. Throughout my kids’ lives I’ve celebrated as they’ve met many milestones and in the midst of the celebration I’ve felt nervous about what comes next. I’ve felt pride as they become more independent coupled with a strong desire to hold on to them a little tighter. The pattern continues as my daughter starts Kindergarten. In some ways, I am ready for this next step, in other ways I feel completely unprepared. And yet, through the processing of emotions and experiences, time continues to pass by, and there she goes.
I held you extra close tonight, the night before your first day of kindergarten. I squeezed you a little extra hard and whispered that you will “always be my baby.” You giggled and wiggled out of my arms, exclaiming that you were most definitely NOT a baby. I laughed with you, making sure to smile but you still saw the tears filling my eyes. You looked at me with contemplation, and in words wise beyond your years said, “It’s okay, even if I am not a baby you can still be my mommy.” And, that is the most “you” thing that you could have said at that moment. You are always so full of empathy and honest truths. Your five year old body houses a wise, old soul and it is so very special.
One of the reasons it is hard for me to let you go is because I feel fiercely protective of your empathetic, kind, old soul. Large groups of people make you nervous and you lose your words. I have told you time and time again, “You do not have to talk if you do not want to, YOU get to choose what you say.” Frequently, this has led you to choose not to say anything. And, I love that about you. I love that you choose to watch people and learn through observation. You think through all your decisions and only jump into things when you know they are right for you! You have a confidence that I find inspiring and possess an understanding of yourself beyond your years. Yet, as much as I love how carefully you choose how and when to express yourself, at times it scares me! Will others notice your confidence? Will new friends respect your quiet nature? Will you stand up for yourself or ask for help if you need it? I do not have all the answers, so I am nervous. However, you, my sweet girl, are not.
Grandma joined us in our back-to-school shopping. We shopped for hours for both you and your brother. You picked out new clothes that conveyed your style, full of pinks and purples, unicorns and flowers. When we walked into a store that had backpacks, you froze and audibly gasped, exclaiming, “My backpack!” You skipped and picked up the pink polka-dotted backpack and put it on your back where it stayed the rest of the shopping trip. You were ready for school, even if I was not.
My hesitation over your transition to school reminds me of an observation I heard from a comedian who joked, “Does anyone ever say to you ‘Can you believe my kid is going to kindergarten!?’ And you just stare at them and respond, ‘Can I believe your kid is doing that exact same thing as every other kid their age? Yes, yes, I believe it.” Ha. I suppose she is right. My “I can’t believe it” gasps may be a little dramatic. I have had five years to prepare for this moment, and in all actuality, it is probably one of the least surprising things you have done. But, five years went by like a blink of my eyes and I just hope it was enough. I hope you are ready, with your wise, old soul, quiet confidence, and thoughtful empathy. And, in my heart, I know you are. I am proud of you and I am proud to be your mommy.
Jessica is a wife, mom, social worker, and aspiring writer. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters.