My baby turned five just the other week, and she’ll be starting Kindergarten in just a matter of days. I remember how bittersweet it was celebrating the last first birthday with my four kids. I realized the chubby toes would eventually disappear, along with the angelic squeals of delight at a simple game of peek-a-boo.
Of course I am thrilled for all the new adventures my little girl will have in school, and I can’t wait to see her blossoming due to all of the things she’ll learn. But I will certainly miss the extra one-on-one snuggles, morning coffee shop dates, and grocery store trips with my baby.
I only vaguely remember my first day of school. The most vivid part is the sea of kids in the cafeteria–talk about overwhelm. I attended “meet the teacher” night this past week with my kids, and I could see the wide-eyed look on my soon-to-be Kindergartner. The school was filled to the brim with families spilling through the hallways and teachers overseeing the chaos of dropping off school supplies while everyone introduced themselves to new friends and cheerily greeted old ones.
Back at home that night my daughter confided that she was scared of starting school. And I’m a little scared for her, too. It’s hard enough as an adult walking into a situation where you have no concept of what to expect. I remember when my other daughter started Kindergarten last year: she cried every day for two weeks when I dropped her off in the morning. Her teacher always reassured me that she was fine in a matter of minutes after I left, but it was hard not to feel guilty at times.
When my oldest son started Kindergarten, I felt like a fish out of water. To top it off we were at a dual language school, which made it harder for us to know what to expect. I like to think I’m a little more seasoned the fourth time around and am more capable of going with the flow and not letting my mama guilt get to me too much.
But worrying for our babies is unavoidable. We’re all going to freak out at various levels when our little ones start their first day of school. We’ll put on a brave face as we drop them off in their classrooms and then hightail it back to the car before our own waterworks start. We’ll worry about whether they’ll make friends, have enough to eat at lunchtime, and/or feel at ease with their teacher.
I definitely take comfort in knowing that my youngest will have older siblings on campus. They’ll probably only see each other in passing, but I know they’ll keep an eye out for her when they do. Her older sister has already taken her under her wing at home, playing school and teaching her how to walk quietly in a straight line, write letters, and numerous other idiosyncrasies of the Kindergarten world I know nothing about.
The glimpses of my future empty nest are beginning. There will certainly be days when I am relieved to drop off my kids at school, but seeing my little ones grow is bittersweet at times. Single mamahood is a big job. I’m grateful to have a wonderful school for my kids, and I’m excited for the possibilities to grow more in my own work now.
Before venturing into single mamahood, people would often ask what I was going to do with myself once my kids were all in school. A times, it could be easy to take offense to this question and interpret it as a comment on my role as a stay-at-home mom: “Won’t you be going back to work and doing something more with yourself?” Yikes.
Now, as a single mother, I don’t get that question nearly as often. People certainly recognize my youngest starting school as a milestone, but they also seem to give me a little more credit as a single parent. I greatly appreciate that respect, but every mother needs that same generosity, whether she works outside of the home, from home, is the CEO of her home, or somewhere in between it all.
For most mamas I know, there is no such thing as extra time for eating bonbons. It is hard for us to stop going. There are always errands or laundry to do, lists to make, and plans to plan. Then there’s homework to help with, dinner to make, and baths and bedtime. Thank the Lord for morning coffee!
When my baby finally starts that first day of Kindergarten, it’ll be a whole new chapter of life. I don’t know what everything’s going to look like. My eyes might tear up a bit, or I might feel ecstatic; it’ll probably be a whole range of emotions, just like it will be for my Kindergartner. We’ll both put on brave faces, and we’ll eventually get the hang of things. And pretty soon it will all be old hat, or at least until the next big milestone needs crossing.