It’s not as if I’m not used to you going off every day; you’ve been in daycare/preschool since you were just a few months old. You leave home for days at a time to stay with Grandma without a second look back. Clearly, there have been no separation anxiety or attachment issues going on here. But this, you going off to Kindergarten, it just feels different. I’ve been reduced to a puddle of tears on more than one occasion these past few weeks (O.K., months) thinking of everything you’ll soon be experiencing. Granted, it doesn’t take much to get me crying these days at all with these surge of hormones this baby has me experiencing, but even I feel like it’s getting a little ridiculous when I’m constantly swiping tears from my eyes every night. I just can’t help it though. For ages now, you’ve already seemed like such a big kid, but when I picture you in those huge hallowed hallways, you just seem soooo tiny and defenseless. Are you really expected to memorize your lunch number and navigate going through the lunch line all by yourself?! How are you ever supposed to know which is the right bus for you to get on in the afternoon?!
You’ve been excited and talking about Kindergarten non stop since last year when some of your already-5 year- old preschool friends departed. You were sad to be left behind and have been asking for your turn to go the whole while since then….until the time actually arrived. When it finally registered with you that your last day of preschool was impending, a look of sorrow crossed your face as you lamented that you wouldn’t be seeing your friends anymore. And at that moment it truly resonated with me how real your feelings are. You’ve been with your same group of preschool friends for years now; of course you have formed deep attachments to them and are feeling sad and anxious about leaving them. But I’ve promised you that Mommy will do her best to have you stay in touch with them. Both Mommy and Daddy have friends from preschool themselves that they stay in touch with to this day, and managed to do so through the years pre-Facebook, so hopefully it will even be all the easier to do so now. You did seem to cheer up after learning you can still see pics and keep in touch with your old friends, although then your brother came to me with the long face and sad eyes. He reduced Mommy to tears all over again as he bemoaned that he didn’t want to go to preschool every day without you and that he would be there all alone. We tried to make him feel better by reminding him of the fun he has with his own classroom friends and that he would still get to see them everyday, but he didn’t brighten up until he realized and said on his own, “I can take the new baby to school with me!” and then he seemed O.K. Mommy still wasn’t, though!
I tried not to project my worries on you, particularly since common sense told me they were unfounded. Of course the teachers and staff would take great care of you and assist you every step of the way. And I know all it would take is you being shown the ropes just one time before you’ll have it down pat and likely leading the way for other kids. Every time you whispered to me that you were a little bit nervous, I assured you it was O.K. to feel that way but that you are going to be just fine and that you will love it. You responded that you really hope I am right.
On the morning of, I sat at the table with you while you ate your breakfast and told you I was excited for you and very proud of you. You peered at me with a wry smile and said, “You’re about to cry, aren’t you?” I protested loudly that I was not and quickly averted my eyes before they spilled over. Indeed, until that moment, I actually had been feeling in control and told myself perhaps today would not be such a big deal. After all, this wouldn’t even be your first real day of Kindergarten, but rather what they call a “staggered entry” in which the child attends just one day for the teachers to observe and assess all the students in small groups in order to “build” even and appropriate classes. Of course I wouldn’t cry; you wouldn’t even have your book bag on today and you wouldn’t even be taking the bus! If I broke down and cried, it would be your first full official day, but not today! Today I’d be perfectly fine.
And then…we were at the school. Never one to turn down a photo op, you asked for pics of you and your grandparents in front of the school, then again in the hallways. I snapped away and smiled as you delighted in pointing out the office and the bathrooms to Grandma and Pop, and proudly showed them where your name appeared on the master Kindergarten list. And then you came and stood by me, seeking out tightly my hand in yours, and sticking your finger in your mouth with your other. You nestled close, burrowing your head in my waist and becoming largely silent. Then, in a blur, the teachers appeared and you were given a name tag and whisked off down the hall. And I felt my eyes immediately filling up with tears because I didn’t even have a chance to hug and kiss you goodbye, it all just happened so quickly! But after you took a few steps, you turned your head back to us while still walking. We waved madly and I gave you a huge smile. You returned a quick wave, pivoted back around and disappeared into the classroom. And I headed toward the exit with your grandparents, swiping briskly at my eyes. I was surprised with the sudden outburst of emotion that had just overwhelmed me as I had truly convinced myself that I wasn’t going to feel that affected today. But I just couldn’t help it. Seeing my little baby girl take off down that big huge hallway without me, knowing how anxious you were feeling, and not being able to get that one last hug, it was all just more than I could bear at that moment. I quickly gathered myself, however, and was able to continue about my day until it was time to pick you up.
I returned to your classroom a few hours later and you joyfully exclaimed “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!” as you jumped up and ran to me, throwing your arms around my waist. You started chatting immediately as we walked hand-in-hand up the hallway about how you sang songs, counted numbers, and cut and pasted shapes. You even got to play outside on the playground and you made “a whole bunch of new best friends” but you “don’t know any of their names”. By the time we got to the car you excitedly offered without my asking, ” You were right! Kindergarten is fun and I like it! ”
And I smiled and averted my eyes from you again before they spilled over. Because who knows when I’ll ever again hear you say to me that I was right about something. And because my little girl is quickly growing up, and I know indeed that you’ll be just fine after all.