My oldest daughter started kindergarten this week. I knew it would be an emotional day for me and her—but not for the obvious reasons.
This kid likes to know what to expect, and kindergarten is the unknown for her. Jumping in feet first is not in her comfort zone; she’s a “dip the tip of her toe into the water” kind of kid. She has told me numerous times throughout the summer she’s scared of starting school because she’s never done it before, and this felt like a valid fear.
However, I had complete faith beginning kindergarten was going to be a wonderful new experience.
The morning of her first day, we hugged a few minutes before her big yellow bus arrived. This was the kind of melt into your body embrace I cherish.
It was a therapeutic hug we both needed—and I thought, “This is the moment you step over the threshold to bigger things outside of the world I have provided for you. Your world will expand beyond our family and the walls of our home now. You will get to spread your wings!”
During this long hug, images of her as a baby flashed in my mind, as well as potential future images of her graduating from school, college, and her life beyond. I wasn’t sad about my baby growing up, though; I was overwhelmed with happy anticipation.
The bus arrived and kids lined up. She reached out to me to hold her hand while waiting in line (which I did, of course) and then she hesitated to step onto the bus. I could feel the lump in my throat forming and a wave of emotion hit me like a tsunami. Her first step onto the bus was the first step into a new era. It was a profound motherhood moment.
With a little coaxing from her bus driver, she climbed the impossibly tall steps and took a seat in the first row by the window. I blew her as many kisses as I could in the moments before the bus pulled away.
And then I lost it. I sobbed into my husband’s button-down like a baby and managed to blurt out, “I’m just so excited for her!” between heaves.
When I went back to work three months postpartum, I did not shed a single tear when leaving my kids in the care of another (day care or nanny). Returning to work post-baby was a milestone I initiated. But starting school is my daughter’s milestone, and I cannot modify it. I always knew I could pull my kids out of daycare with ease, but once they are on the moving sidewalk of “real” education, there’s no stepping off until they are in cap and gown.
Unlike my daughter, I am a “jump in feet first” kind of person and I still remember the mixture of excitement and anxiety I felt on my first day of kindergarten. Watching my daughter get onto the bus made time bend in on itself, and I was transported back to my memories of that year. It felt like stepping outside on a crisp autumn day and taking a breath of fresh air after sitting in a stuffy room.
I ended up loving every single minute of school and the tears I shed for my daughter (and on my drive to work) were because she’s on the precipice of experiencing something truly magical, and I cannot wait to see what comes next.
Fittingly, I couldn’t wait until the end of the day to find out how her first day went. During my lunch hour, I rushed home to greet her off the bus. She told me she’s not scared anymore and she loves it.
It’s going to be a great school year, for both of us.