If your friendship circles are anything like mine, your Facebook feed is probably filled with status updates about little ones starting preschool, bigger ones heading off to kindergarten, and the biggest ones of all holding back their tears and trying not to imagine their babies going off to college one day. I can’t keep track of how many pictures I’ve seen of back-to-school haircuts, new clothes, and Dora backpacks. One of my friends even went so far as to tape family pictures on the inside of her son’s lunch box; it was such a simple yet sweet thing to do, and I was totally impressed.
Such a thing would have never occurred to me.
I totally understand where these parents are coming from; my older daughter is starting preschool on Friday, and my little one will head back to daycare next Monday. I too have had those weepy parental feelings, that overwhelming sense of nostalgia for a moment that hasn’t even passed. Just not about my little girl’s first day at preschool. I know, you’re probably thinking that it will hit me when we head out of the house that morning, or perhaps when we walk into her new school, or perhaps when I leave with the baby.
I don’t think so.
I know from experience. Twice. The first time was when I left my then 3-month-old at daycare for the first time, and the second time was with my second daughter, also then 3 months old. Both times were just for an hour, a trial run before the real first day. Based on my friends’ reports and the numerous anxiety-ridden posts on my local Mommy list-serv, I was waiting for the worry and the guilt and sadness to set in; I was expecting to spend my free hour going through a box of Kleenex while clicking through the hundreds of baby pictures we had stored on the computer. But as I walked out of our daycare, leaving my happy, calm daughters behind me, I felt… relief. I went to the gym. I watched crap TV while I was on the elliptical. I got myself a cup of coffee, and just sat. Quietly. It was AWESOME. And I was thrilled to see my girls at the end of the hour.
Yes, my babies are growing up, and yes, I have those moments when I’m just not ready for it to happen. (I still struggle to let my big girl walk down the stairs alone. I know, we all have our meshugas, right?) But my girls heading off to school (or daycare or whatever) doesn’t trigger the tears for me. The truth is, I’m not SAHM material (although I am endlessly impressed by my friends who are) and I need a break from them. In addition, I loved school as a child, and my girls do, too. They’re happy at their second homes. I trust their caregivers and teachers, I like their friends, and I know they’ll be safe. And I’ll be sane.
So, Friday’s coming, and my little girl will be going off to school. I’ll pack her a lunch the night before (UGH), and we’ll probably pick out a special outfit for the big day. I might even take a few pictures that morning, and they’ll most likely end up on Facebook. But don’t kid yourself—after 11 days with no childcare and a vacation that was cut short by a feverish and vomiting toddler, I won’t be the one crying at drop-off.