I’m not ok. It’s all I can think of as I peruse the Kindergarten registration forms. I am not ready to let go. A thousand “how’s” and “what if’s” run through my head. How do I stand there and let part of me get on a bus and ride away? I have flashbacks of bad daycare drop-offs. Where will he sit? Will he know where to go? Will he wander the halls for an hour? Would he cry? Or calmly keep wandering until a teacher discovers him? Will he remember to use the bathroom?
I remember listening to an episode of “Hey Girl Podcast” from Amanda Clark & Mary Susan Buhner (they are hilarious, by the way). Amanda was talking about sending her daughter to kindergarten for the first time. They were running drills at home – practicing useful things that kindergarteners need to do on their own. How do you open your lunch box? What do you eat first? How do you go to the bathroom by yourself? Go, wipe, flush, wash hands. “Go, go, go,” Amanda’s voice echoes in my mind. The drills covered it all. I laughed so hard at the time, but I knew I’d feel the same way once my son went to kindergarten. And now, here I am.
He’s so ready, but I am not. I am not ready to face that day. I can’t picture the logistics of how it all works, how all these precious babies walk out the door and survive the first day of kindergarten. I want to hold his hand. I want to walk him through the halls 1,000 times before he has to do it on his own. He’s quiet and sensitive. He responds to things with his head first, and then his heart reacts. I work the same way. I can literally see words churning in his head as he digests news – good or bad – and I know, most of the time, what his face will reveal when it catches up to his mind.
Occasionally, I’ve been wrong. He’s outplayed me, outsmarted me. He’s been braver, calmer, happier, more mature than I expected. I know he will do this on his first day of school. I know this for a fact because the version of him that I am picturing is not who he is today. I imagine my baby, my firstborn. I picture small fists, tiny toes. I see him crying at daycare drop-off, wishing we would stay. I see him working hard through a year of physical therapy, learning to walk, learning to trust himself, understanding that he can overcome and succeed. I picture my first baby as my baby. But that, he is not. He is a kindergartener, ready to take on the world. He will be fine. But I will not.
The reality is, moms who are sending their first babies to kindergarten are not alone. We have women around us who have done this before. They know how we feel and survived. I will pull these women close. They will be there to catch me as I fall to pieces on his first day. Here are some of their words of advice:
- Allow yourself the moment. Sit in front of that computer screen and see his little life flash right before your eyes. Let the tears come. They deserve their moment after the five years leading up to this.
- You’ll worry. You’ll obsess over what he’ll eat for lunch or if he’ll be too cold in the classroom. You’ll wonder how he’ll get on that bus without you. It’s just going to happen, and it’s ok.
- Kids are capable of so much more than we’ll allow our anxious hearts to imagine. It won’t be perfect. He might shed tears, and you most certainly will. But it’s because of the love between you, that love that no one else knows. You’ve done good, mama. You’ve shown him the way thus far. You’ll lead him through this just the same.
- Find a mom who will drink mimosas with you after putting them on the bus for the first time.
- I was so afraid to think I would be treating him like a baby, but it all goes so fast. They will never be little again, and with the second kid, you will feel different because you have the knowledge that the first one had done it before.
- Hold their hand whenever they let you.
- Respond to what they need. Stick by them if they want you to. Let them know you’re there, and keep them comfortable as you navigate pre-first day activities.
- Write lunch notes every day. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy, sometimes just an “I love you.”
- You will miss them WAY more than they miss you 🙂
- The whole class is new – they are all in this together. They will learn to help each other, and the teacher is prepared to handle anything.